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The Definition and Incidence of MCS

The following is taken from the Foreword by Dr. David Buscher found in Comfort in the Storm:

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is somewhat of a recent medical phenomenon, which is poorly understood, controversial, and difficult to provide curative treatment for. One of the best definitions of MCS was published in the Archives of Environmental Health in 1999, and was based on the consensus opinion of a multidisciplinary group of physicians and scientists involved in the research and/or treatment of MCS. This committee defined MCS as (1) a chronic condition (2) with symptoms that recur reproducibly (3) in response to low levels of exposure (4) to multiple unrelated chemicals (5) causing symptoms in multiple organ systems which (6) improve or resolve when incitants (chemical irritants) are removed.

More simply stated, MCS is a noteworthy condition, in that those who have it exhibit a very high degree of sensitivity to a diverse array of low-level chemical substances, which can cause a multitude of different symptoms. Estimates of the prevalence of MCS in the U.S. population are based on random studies of medical clinic patients, general populations, and telephone surveys. One of the earliest studies in 1987 suggested 2-10% of the population had chemical sensitivity. Later on, studies from 1993-1996 estimate the numbers to be between 15-33%, suggesting an increase in MCS within the population. Clinically, physicians who specialize in Environmental Medicine would agree that the incidence of MCS is rising.

The cause of MCS and its rising incidence correlates with the increasing use of an overwhelming diversity of chemicals to which we are all exposed. Chemical exposures are now part of daily life; we are born with toxic chemicals already circulating in our tissues, and the longer we live the more we accumulate. A few of the places where these chemicals are found include our air, water, food, clothing, furniture, and beds. Pesticides used in Texas find their way to remote areas such as the Arctic through a process known as “leapfrogging.” We spend 95% of our time indoors or in cars where chemical toxins are more concentrated. This is only a brief overview of where these chemical exposures can occur.

Total avoidance of chemical toxins is close to impossible because of the ubiquitous presence of these chemicals throughout our environment. The level of awareness surrounding the danger from toxic chemicals is generally much higher than it was thirty years ago. This has resulted in increased availability of less toxic building materials, effective air and water filtration systems, healthier cosmetics and personal care products, as well as less chemically contaminated foods. Each of us has the ability to reduce our level of exposure by making informed and healthy choices concerning where we live, what we eat, and what we drink.

Proper stewardship of the earth God has given us requires the reduction of the sources of toxic chemicals as much as possible. Perhaps this can be best achieved by grassroots dissemination of information about the chemical problem to our neighbors, schoolteachers, fellow church members and our overworked politicians. Awareness of the impact of chemical exposures on human health is the first step in bringing about the changes that the people of our nation will implement when properly informed.

David Buscher, M.D., FAAEM

Former President American Academy of Environmental Medicine

June 2004


Educational background and experience:

David Buscher, M.D. has been specializing in the field of Environmental Medicine for more than 25 years. He is board-certified by the American Board of Environmental Medicine and is past president of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine.  He is a member of the faculty of this Academy and program director of the Basic Course of Environmental Medicine, which introduces new physicians into the field. His educational background includes undergraduate work at the City College of New York, where he majored in biology and minored in chemistry and mathematics. He received his medical degree form the State University of New York at Buffalo.

After several years of practicing medicine, Dr. Buscher developed an interest in nutritional and environmental influences on disease. He then completed a one and a half-year fellowship at the Human Ecology Research Center under Theron Randolph, M.D., the “Father of Environmental medicine.” Following his mentorship under Dr. Randolph, he completed two years of residency training in Occupational Medicine at the University of Washington. He eventually started his own practice, the Northwest Center for Environmental Medicine, which is located in Bellevue, Washington. Visit:

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