What is MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity)?

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity - MCS-Aware

We recently found out about MCS-Aware when a couple of its members with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) tried Greenscents Nonscents range. They told us how great our products were for them and told the charity about us. Greenscents founder, Christina Hawkes, is an MCS sufferer herself and so she contacted MCS-Aware straight away.  We hope to be included on their website soon and we will also be offering a discount to their members off their first order.

So what is MCS?

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is a chronic, physical illness affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. It causes sufferers to have allergic-type reactions to very low levels of chemicals in everyday products as well electro-sensitivities. Put simply the immune and detoxification systems stop working properly and the body cannot process toxins efficiently. 

The World Health Organisation classifies MCS as a physical illness and it is recognised as a serious medical illness in Germany, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Japan, Australia, Canada and the USA. In those countries sufferers have access to appropriate medical treatment, housing and social support. In the UK multiple chemical sensitivity is listed as a symptom of ME, but MCS is not yet recognised as an illness in its own right. Medical support varies widely and there are no specialist NHS treatment facilities. Sufferers and their families are often left to cope as best they can.

What is MCS-Aware?

Nicki Greenham set up MCS-Aware as a result of her own personal experience of severe multiple chemical sensitivity and her frustration at the lack of available information.

“The sense of isolation can feel overwhelming, but actually there are thousands of us trying to live with multiple sensitivities. It is an unfortunate irony that those worst affected find their illness prevents them from accessing the information they need to facilitate recovery.”

She started as a support group in 2005 and registered as a charity in 2011.

How does the charity help people?

MCS-Aware offers support to those affected by this life-changing condition in a number of ways: two magazines a year (an additional magazine per year for support group members), information on starting recovery, help sheets, a PenPal community, discount codes on various products, help with welfare and work as well as an informative newsletter.


What are the most important things you can do if you have multiple chemical sensitivity?

MCS-Aware has shared some of its top tips.

Once you have identified problem chemicals or environmental allergens, it is vital to remove as many as possible from your home environment. If this is not practical, at least ensure one room is made into a ‘safe’, chemical free oasis; your bedroom is ideal as it is the place you are likely to spend the most time. A low-allergy bedroom should also improve the quality of sleep and therefore speed up healing.

  • Use unfragranced products.
  • Consider changing to environmentally friendly brands of toiletries and detergents
  • Before sleeping unplug and switch off all your electrical gadgets, phones and WiFi.
  • Remove as many chemicals from your diet as you can

Is it important that people with MCS choose organic products in the home?

A lot of cleaning products include harsh chemicals as well as fragrance, which can be a combination of different synthetic ingredients, which manufacturers are not obliged to list on the label. 

Certified organic products use organic essential oils for fragrance or contain no fragrance at all.  They will also exclude the use of petrochemicals and synthetic fragrance. At Greenscents we advise MCS sufferers to avoid fragrance all together.

Bedding is something that is next to your skin all night-long and the best choice is untreated organic bedding.

How can you support the charity?

A small number of part-time staff and volunteers run MCS-Aware and the charity is funded entirely by subscriptions, advertising in their  newsletter and by donations. If you would like to join them and help in any way, please get in touch. They appreciate any help with admin, website maintenance, research, writing articles, fund raising and many other roles.

To find out more about the charity, please go to www.mcs-aware.org or email info@mcs-aware.org