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By Diana Wade
Disability Advocate 

Can a person with multiple chemical sensitivity get disability?

Ask the Advocate

 

Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is typically classified as an environmental illness. The cause can include exposure to physical, biological, or chemical compounds. Some examples are gas fumes, cleaning products, furniture polish, perfumes, sugar, aspirin, cigarette smoke, tap water, fragrance products, including shampoos and detergents and pesticides – both inside and outside and on foods.

Persons who suffer from this condition may have minor to severe symptoms, including breathing issues, skin rashes, diarrhea, confusion, memory loss, itching, sneezing, sore throat, and muscle pain. People with multiple chemical sensitivity have expressed a wide variety of signs and symptom. In some cases, people have symptoms of brain fog, short term memory dysfunction, difficulty with recalling words, headaches and migraines

Some people complain of MCS if they have been exposed to any of a wide range of chemicals. The exposure may happen during a major event like a chemical spill or from long-term exposure to low-levels of chemicals, such as in an office with poor ventilation. As a result of exposure, people with MCS have reactions and develop sensitivity to the chemicals even at levels most other people can tolerate.

There are other names for this condition. "Environmental illness" and "sick building syndrome" are other names for this condition.

There is disagreement over whether or not MCS is really a distinct physical disorder. The American Medical Association (AMA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology do not consider multiple chemical sensitivity a distinct physical disorder.

There are three reasons why these groups do not consider MCS to be a distinct physical disorder. First, clinical evidence is lacking that supports a physical cause for the signs and symptoms people with this condition experience. Second, people with MCS do not develop antibodies in response to this chemical exposure, as is the case with allergic or immune system reaction. Third, people with this condition also have high rates of mental health disorders. These include anxiety, depression and somatoform disorders. Somatoform disorders are mental disorders that are shown through physical signs and symptoms.

In today's environment, there are a greater number of complex chemical compounds that add to problems for those suffering from MCS. This explains how a chemical sensitivity could quickly affect many aspects of your life, including your ability to work, due to the amount of chemicals in our environment.

There is some evidence that MCS is similar to Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS). MCAS or disorder, is an immunological condition in which mast cells inappropriately and excessively release chemical mediators resulting in a range of chronic symptoms that are very similar to the symptoms reported in individuals with MCS.

It is very important that you tell your doctors about all the symptoms and disabilities you are experiencing and make sure your medical records include a diagnosis, prognosis, and complete description of your limitations that result from MCS, including physical, neurological, cognitive, and psychological impairments. Your medical records will be the primary source of information used in your case, and if you fail to mention any symptoms, limitations, or disabilities to your doctor, or if the doctor neglects to record them, they won't be included. You should make sure your doctor records everything you tell him/her.

Many people suffer from multiple symptoms that make it impossible to work. Because SSA does not have a specific listing for MCS, SSA will determine what your capacity for work is based on your remaining physical limitations. Put another way, SSA will determine if the combination of impairments is sufficiently disabling to keep you from returning to work.

An Accredited Disability Representative with more than 20 years experience, Diana Wade believes her clientele can be comfortable knowing that she is recognized by SSA and a charter member of NADR. To contact Ms. Wade call (661) 821-0494, email dianapwade@att.net or visit CaliforniaDisability.net.

 
 

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