A Quarter Of Americans Suffer From Chemical Sensitivity And It's Getting Worse Fast

Scented candles and essential oils may be promoted as natural and healthy, but they can trigger reactions among those with chemical sensitivities just like paints or insecticides. Africa Studio/Shutterstock

The health effects are dire, with 61 percent of those with MCS reporting missing work days as a result of exposure to triggers such as fragranced consumer products.

Steinemann advocates eliminating the chemical triggers wherever possible, particularly moving to “fragrance-free workplaces, health care facilities, and schools.” She notes that when she tested air fresheners and other fragranced household products marketed as environmentally friendly, she found the same hazardous and petroleum-based chemicals in them as the mainstream options, suggesting they are likely equally triggering. She proposes “going back to the cleaning products our grandparents used”, such as vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.

An important limitation of the study is that the data was based on self-reports. Still, cutting out unnecessary sensitivity triggers can be important for society as a whole. Steinemann refers to a recent study showing that the same common chemicals now make up as much urban pollution as car exhausts. “People with MCS are like human canaries,” she said in a statement. “They react earlier and more severely to chemical pollutants, even at low levels.”

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