Self-reported chemical sensitivity in Germany: a population-based survey.
ABSTRACT Environmental clinics are frequented by patients with fears and complaints related to environmental triggers. A dose-independent overreaction to small doses of widely used and generally non-toxic chemicals is referred to as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), but no clearly defined clinical syndrome with objective physical findings has been delineated so far. We aimed to obtain information about symptoms, supposed environmental triggers, the frequency of self-reported chemical sensitivity, and of the diagnosis MCS in Germany.
We conducted a representative survey among 2032 adult Germans.
We found self-reported chemical sensitivity in 9% and physician-diagnosed MCS in 0.5% of our representative sample. Physical complaints were common in the whole study population and in chemically sensitive individuals, but there was no clear-cut symptom constellation among the latter. The most common complaints were headache, fatigue, sleep disturbances, joint pain, mood changes and nervousness. A subjective connection between complaints and environmental triggers was denied by 67% of the whole group and by 35% of the self-reported chemically sensitive. Factor analysis of environmental triggers suggested that a specific exposure situation rather than chemical similarity is the basis for individual trigger combinations.
The prevalence of subjective sensitivity towards chemicals is similar to such rates reported from other countries. There is a relatively low awareness of the MCS-concept, and it appears to be diagnosed less frequently than, e.g., in the USA. Since symptoms and triggers in chemically sensitive individuals did not differ from the general population, our data do not suggest the existence of a widespread new syndrome related to chemical sensitivities in Germany. We outline the limitations of self-reported chemical sensitivity as the major criterion for such a contentious diagnosis as MCS.
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ABSTRACT: Studies of unmet health care needs have shown that women, people with poor health, and people with lower socioeconomic status are more likely to report having unmet health care needs. In this study, we examined the types of and reasons for unmet health care needs in 465 people with environmental sensitivities. A second area of inquiry involved negative reac-tions to general anesthesia. Results showed that the most common barriers to receiving care were the inability to find a provider who understands environmental sensitivities and a lack of accessibility due to chemical and electromagnetic exposures in health care environments. Lower income and poorer health (longer illness, a worsening or fluctuating course of illness, and a higher level of disability) were significantly correlated with the total number of reported unmet health care needs. Some people with environmental sensitivities reported having negative reactions to anesthesia of long duration; most common were nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and reduced cognitive ability.Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare 01/2015; 2015(8):59-66. DOI:10.2147/JMDH.S61723
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ABSTRACT: The aetiology behind odor-related chronic somatic symptoms (O-RCSS) is unknown, although both immunological and psychiatric causes have been suggested. The aim of this study was to investigate the occurrence of self-reported asthma and hay fever and psychiatric symptoms in individuals having O-RCSS compared to individuals with similar chronic somatic symptoms (CSS) which were not odors-related, and also compared to healthy controls. Data from the Hordaland Health Study were used. 13,799 individuals, 40-45 years, answered a questionnaire including 16 questions related to somatic symptoms. They also indicated if the symptoms were odor-related, and answered questions about asthma and hay fever. Anxiety and depression were measured with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. 38 (0.6%) men and 106 (1.4%) women had O-RCSS, whereas 88 (1.5%) men and 192 (2.5%) women had CSS. Adjusted logistic regression analyses showed increased odds of self-reported asthma in those with O-RCSS compared to those with CSS (males: 3.81, 1.06-13.8, females: 2.60, 1.05-6.93) and compared to male and female controls (3.56, 1.89-6.68 and 4.81, 1.92-12.1 respectively). Increased odds of self-reported hay fever were in addition seen in females with O-RCSS. There were no differences in psychiatric symptoms between individuals with O-RCSS and CSS, although individuals in both groups showed increased odds compared to male and female controls. Increased occurrence of self-reported asthma was exclusively found among male and females with O-RCSS, compared to CSS and controls. Increased occurrence of psychiatric symptoms was seen both in individuals with O-RCSS and CSS.