Multiple Chemical Sensitivity & Thyroid Disease. Are You TILTed?

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity & Thyroid Disease. Are You TILTed?

Chemicals are everywhere. Our world is toxic. Period.

For some, their very own homes are killing them. The wide range of chemicals that lurk within the very walls intended to protect us from the outside world may be more toxic for some sensitive people than imaginable. Home sweet home, as the saying goes, or it seems that Home Sweet Toxic Home is a more accurate description for people with multiple chemical sensitivity. By home, I really mean any place where we spend a great deal of time from our workplace to our local community halls to our local parks to the schools that our children attend. A person of any age can suddenly develop an intolerance to multiple chemicals, even at low doses that don’t seem to bother people around them, from a severe acute exposure to one chemical or to low dose exposures to one or more chemicals over a period of time.

Multiple chemical sensitivity & your thyroid

The relationship between thyroid disease and MCS should not be overlooked. A sudden intolerance to chemicals may be the very trigger that sets the ball rolling for a person’s life of chronic illness or it may be what rapidly worsens an existing thyroid condition. And new chemicals may suddenly become off limits over time as the person accumulates more and more and more sensitivities and the person, if they know to look for them, may even notice dramatic flare ups of their thyroid symptoms at those times, the emergence of new symptoms, or the need for a higher dosage of thyroid hormone replacement medication.
 
In the 2014 study titled Evaluation of suffering in individuals with multiple chemical sensitivity,[1] the results showed that MCS is often accompanied by other diseases including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, hypothyroidism (yes you read that correctly), irritable bowel syndrome, and Sjögren’s syndrome among the most prevalent.
 

Environmental synthetic chemicals have been shown to influence thyroid function including reducing circulating thyroid hormone levels and interfering with thyroid hormone receptors.[2-4] Environmental exposure can serve as a trigger for autoimmune thyroid disease, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease.[5,6]

Why am I so interested in MCS?
 

Because I am TILTed

Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is also known as idiopathic environmental illness (IEI) or toxicant-induced loss of tolerance (TILT).
 
It was 1995 and I was 25 years old and young and healthy. On a warm, summer day, I took my car to a mechanic for repairs. I was given an old diesel car on loan until my car was ready for pickup. I remember the smell of diesel, like maybe there was a leak somewhere, but I rolled my windows down and kept driving. By that evening, my head was spinning and I spent the night running to the toilet to vomit.
 
It was 1998 and my skin was changing. Red, oozing, bleeding, itchy welts of eczema appeared all over my fingers right under my rings, on my wrist right under the face of my watch, and on my stomach right under my belt buckle. My ears were oozing pus every time I put on earrings. The rims of my eyes were bubbling red. I had heard about nickel allergies and bought a nickel testing kit at a health food store and tested every piece of jewelry including the rings and earrings and then the belt buckle and even the eyelash curler that I used every morning. They all tested high in nickel.
 
It was 1999 and I was a high school biology teacher. I started to react to the blackboard chalk and I struggled with chronic laryngitis and flaming red hands.
 
It was 2000 and the smell of beauty products started to bother me, even smells on my own body. I could no longer stand to wear perfume and my favorite body lotions and shampoos would bother me so much that they would wake me up in the night. Not to mention the fierce headaches that would come over me when I got too close to people with heavy perfume at my office.
 
It was 2002 and I moved into an apartment with newly installed wall-to-wall carpeting. My nose wouldn’t stop running and my eyes were bloodshot. I went to an allergist for extensive testing and was told, “Dana, you are allergic to 99.99999% of everything tested.” And that included mold.
 
It was 2005 and I had braces put on as an adult to finally fix my crowded teeth. When the braces were taken out, a retainer wire was placed behind my upper and lower teeth to keep them from shifting. I noticed that I started getting sick more often since the start of the orthodontics. I caught every cold and flu around and I generally felt unwell. Orthodontics and most dental materials can be toxic to sensitive individuals, including, you guessed it, nickel in the orthodontic retainer wire.
 
It was 2007 and I purchased a new mattress, a knock-off memory foam mattress at a dramatically reduced price (you know that saying that if something is too good to be true?). The mattress was delivered, unwrapped, and put on the bed frame. That night, my head spun so hard and the nausea was sickening. I couldn’t wake up from bed the next morning.
 
It was 2012 and I lived in a corner unit apartment right on the Hudson River when Hurricane Sandy hit. My windows faced the river and there were heating/air conditioner units under each window. I normally cleaned the filters on those units regularly but it had been over a month after Hurricane Sandy before I thought to clean the filters. I noticed my hair falling out in clumps in the shower and my heart pounding out of my chest. The dosage of thyroid hormone replacement medication that had been working well for several years was now suddenly not enough and I felt very hypothyroid. Then I pulled out the filters and there I found an infestation of black mold.
 
It was 2017 and I missed the look of thick, full eyelashes that I had lost with hypothyroidism and eyelash extensions sounded like the perfect fix. It took only seconds after the eye gel pads were placed for my eyelids to start to bubble up and my appointment had to stop.
 
It was 2018 and I accidentally burned a turkey in the oven and the pan was scorched black. Over recent years I’ve been feeling great since diving deep into improving my thyroid health and that has included reducing my exposure to environmental chemicals such as replacing my toxic cookware, but this was one of my old pans. The smell. It might have been from the burnt turkey but the smell was a nasty smell of metal. I was overcome with a high fever. I recovered much more quickly thankfully from this bout of chemical exposure than in times past and I find myself less sensitive to normal everyday chemicals even ones that used to bother me so, and I’m certain it’s thanks to being overall more healthy. Here’s the thing. I was the only one in my home bothered by the smell.
 
People with MCS are like canaries in the coal mine. Coal miners would bring canaries down into the mine as an early warning system. When the canary stopped singing or died, the miners would know to leave the mine because it was unsafe. MCS is like a beacon warning the world that it is becoming too dangerous. Today, our world is so toxic that the prevalence of diagnosed MCS has increased over 300% and self-reported chemical sensitivity over 200% in the past decade.[7]
 
Now it’s your turn. Take a look at the following list of everyday potential triggers for MCS. With so many toxins filling our modern world, this list does not even begin to scratch the surface, but it gives you a list to consider and compare to your own personal health history.
 

Potential triggers of multiple chemical sensitivity

  • Cookware
  • Orthodontics (braces, clear aligners, retainer wire)
  • Dental restoration (crowns, bridges, implants, fillings, root canal preparation disinfectant)
  • Breast implants, botox, dermal fillers
  • Medical implants (artificial hip, pacemaker, artificial knee, coronary stent, surgical mesh)
  • Medical and dental X-rays
  • Birth control implant, IUD
  • Contact lenses and solution
  • Jewelry, belt buckles, watch, body piercing
  • Tattoo ink
  • Exhaust fumes from car, truck, motorcycle, planes, buses, trains, subways
  • Diesel, gasoline
  • Gas, oil, coal fired heaters
  • Kerosene lamps
  • Gas stove
  • Wood-burning, gas, electric fireplaces
  • Gas, charcoal, electric, barbecues, smokers
  • Tar fumes from driveway, road, roof
  • Flame retardant in pillows, car interior, baby seats, strollers
  • Waterproof clothing, rain boots, stain repellants for carpets and upholstered furniture
  • Carpet and carpet padding
  • Latex gloves, latex condoms, diaphragms
  • Mattress
  • Synthetic bedding, clothing, uniforms, upholstery, curtains, furnishings
  • Cedar closet
  • Mold
  • Tobacco smoke, cigars
  • Artificial color, sweeteners, preservatives, ripening chemicals, heavy metals in fish, burnt food
  • Adhesive tape, glue
  • Industrial fumes
  • Chlorinated pool
  • PVC windows and doors, plywood, particle board, MDF cupboards, acrylic sealants, glues
  • Plastic water bottles, baby bottles, thermal cash receipts, metal cans, plastic plates and cutlery, shower curtain, tablecloth, table mats, toys, vinyl flooring, plastic bags, safety glasses
  • Plastic food containers, cling wrap, plastic sandwich bags
  • Aluminum foil
  • Fluoride-containing toothpaste, dental fluoride treatment, tooth whitening strips, toothpaste, gels, kits
  • Contaminants in drinking water, food, air, supplements, over the counter medications, prescription medications
  • Fluorescent lighting, low-energy light bulbs
  • Insect repellant, pesticides, herbicides, weed killer, fertilizer 
  • Perfumes, cologne, soap, makeup, shampoo, antiperspirant, deodorant, after-shave, tampons, mouthwash, bubble bath
  • Makeup, skin care, and personal care products
  • Eyelash curler, eyelash extensions, false lash glue
  • Dry cleaning
  • Waste sites
  • Plug-in and spray air freshener, potpourri, incense, candles, mothballs
  • Hair spray, hair dye, weaves, extensions, wig glue, hair relaxer, keratin, Brazilian blowout, Japanese straightening treatment
  • Nail polish, nail polish remover, polish hardener, artificial nails, artificial nail glue, acrylic nails, shellac nails, gel nails, paraffin wax treatment
  • Paint, paint thinner, primer, paint stripper, varnish, shellac, lacquer
  • Newspaper print, felt-tip pens, magic markers, white-board markers, blackboard chalk, artist paints
  • Embalming fluid at funeral
  • Preserved laboratory specimens
  • Fireworks, matches, flares, batteries
  • Old galvanized pipes
  • Photocopier fumes, laser printer toner
  • Laundry detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheet
  • Household cleaners, ammonia
  • Microwave, SmartMeter, cell phone, Wi-Fi, tablet, cordless phone, remote control, power lines, cell towers
Have you experienced any baffling symptoms related to one or more of the triggers listed above or others not listed? I want to hear from you. Are you TILTed?
 
References:
 
[1] García-Sierra, R., Álvarez-Moleiro, M. Evaluation of suffering in individuals with multiple chemical sensitivity. Clínica y Salud. 2014;25(2):95-103.
 
[2] Brucker-Davis, F. Effects of environmental synthetic chemical on thyroid function. Thyroid. 1998 Sep;8(9):827-56.
 
[3] Pearce, E.N., Braverman, L.E. Environmental pollutants and the thyroid. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Dec;23(6):801-13.
 
[4] Miller, M.D., et al. Thyroid-disrupting chemicals: interpreting upstream biomarkers of adverse outcomes. Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Jul;117(7):1033-41.
 
[5] Burek, C.L., Talor, M.V. Environmental Triggers of Autoimmune Thyroiditis. J Autoimmun. 2009 Nov-Dec;33(3-4):183-189.
 
[6] Brent, G.A. Environmental Exposures and Autoimmune Thyroid Disease. Thyroid. 2010 Jul;20(7):755-761.
 
[7] Steinemann, A. National Prevalence and Effects of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. J Occup Environ Med. 2018 Mar;60(3):e152-e156.
 

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About Dana Trentini

Dana Trentini founded Hypothyroid Mom October 2012 in memory of the unborn baby she lost to hypothyroidism. This is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for consulting your physician regarding medical advice pertaining to your health. Hypothyroid Mom includes affiliate links including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.

Comments

  1. I understand all too well what you all have been going through with MCS. I have been dealing with it for more than 35 years. Living with this autoimmunity has been very difficult. I do feel blessed to have found a NAET practitioner that has helped me immensely with dealing with it. My brain no longer swells upon smelling scented products though I avoid anything scented as much as possible and I don’t react to stuff like I used to. This illness is very hard to cope with when we don’t get the support we need as people who don’t understand just don’t get MCS. I don’t explain it anymore.

  2. It’s a nightmare! The past 20 years of my life is effected by mcs. I can not be near other people unless I’m outside or they have washed and clothes washed in the same basic fragrance free products I use. Work and social situations are very limited. There are very few ‘normal’ people out there willing to adapt their lifestyles around a mcs sufferer. How many times have you heard friends say “but I’ve got nothing on, I purposely didn’t put any scent on”……. (yes but it’s your fabric conditioner, deodorant, hair product etc etc……) I’ve yet to meet a girl friend who doesn’t get fed up with the situation! Right now I’m trying living in a completely different environment, (doctor agreed it to be a good idea), Australia. Where I live fortunately hasn’t been too badly effected by bush fires and living right next to the ocean tends to bring fresh air constantly. Day and night the windows and doors are open so it’s kind of like living outside, still warm with a roof over head. This has helped ease the problem effects and who knows it may be a long term solution. I have been doing this for a couple of months now, feel good for it but I still smell people from a hundred metres away on the beach for example and formaldehyde, car fumes especially diesel etc.

    Has any other mcs sufferer had the very latest German DNA based testing done for DNA aducts with additional lymphocyte testing? if so I would welcome hearing from you.

    I had the tests last year and DNA aducts were found (basically individually identified toxins latched on to my cells!). This information was revolutionary for me, had this been available 20 years ago it could have saved a lot of expensive testing over the years and steered me along a different route. The results also backed up lots of other tests I’ve had over the years. Hair, blood, fat cells, saliva, urine, chelated urine, stool, nail, endoscopy, colonoscopy, drug trials for university hospitals, elimination diets etc etc. I’ve done my fair share! The more research I do, the more I strongly believe toxins are the cause of nearly all I’ll health. My doctors over the years have regularly quoted the old classic, “you’re like a canary in a coal mine, one of the lucky ones, warned to stay away”. To this I reply, “am I the lucky one to endure a life of basically being locked out of ‘normal’ society or is it better never to know any illness then suddenly die as a recorded case of sudden cancer or a stroke. All I know is going food shopping between 21.00 – 22.00 just before shop closing to avoid other people’s scents isn’t exactly great!

    Anyone interested in knowing more about testing or anything to do with this subject feel free to contact me. If I can help someone from what I’ve been through then that’s all good.

  3. My heart goes out to everyone who’s had the misfortune to develop chemical sensitivities. I know what it’s like to be so sick and have other people be callously dismissive and roll their eyes when you try to get them to understand.

    This will be long because I am so angry right now. I recently quit my job because they have been, in my opinion, poisoning me for over a year.

    A little backstory: I am 41, female, and was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s when I was 36. I’ve always been sensitive to perfumes and air fresheners—it seems to be hereditary on my mother’s side of the family. After I was diagnosed I immediately went gluten-free and was finally free of the constant post-nasal drip I’d suffered my entire adult life.

    Around the time I was diagnosed, I started to have reactions to more things—I can’t wear earrings any more due to the whole pus issue you mentioned, and any kind of colored lip product makes my lips break out with white contact dermatitis bumps.

    I‘ve worked in the same office, at the same desk, for 13 years. In the summer of 2018 the company had extensive repairs done to the HVAC system that plugged a lot of holes and leaks in the ducts. In fall of 2018, I started to be absolutely smothered by the smell of a strong air freshener that gave me migraines. I requested management remove the (expletive) plug-in air fresheners that were all over the building. They did so, but it made no difference. I was still being suffocated by an air freshener.

    I emailed management to let them know I was still being made sick by an air freshener that I couldn’t locate, and was told “as per your request, there are no more air fresheners in the building.” My subsequent emails were ignored. My symptoms started to get worse, but not consistently. Some days I would just have a sore throat or a migraine or brain fog, but at least one day a week I would have every symptom there is, from migraine and nausea to brain fog and fatigue to closed nasal passages and difficulty breathing. I missed work several times because of the symptoms.

    This went on for months. I quit trying to get help and just endured it, because people treated me like I was nuts if I said anything. My mother was the only person who believed me.

    Eventually I realized what I was smelling was coming through one of the 4 air returns over my desk, directly from the men’s restroom (I’m a woman and don’t visit the men’s room).

    It took me months to convince management that the air freshener was coming through the ventilation system and have them remove it from the restroom. I tried taking it out myself but it got replaced almost immediately. Then I realized the cleaning company replaced the air freshener on a weekly basis, so I had to ask management to please have them stop refilling it.

    When I finally got them to agree to *that*, the company placed cans of Lysol in the bathrooms, which was even worse! People were spraying it constantly. And Lysol is insanely toxic. I’ve had a sore throat, sinus issues, and a dry cough for a week, as this happened last Monday. I’d already given notice and only had three (now two) weeks left. I emailed a letter to the head of HR to complain about everything and request that NO air fresheners be replaced in the bathroom during my last weeks. His response was one sentence that only stated the existing Lysol had been removed.

    I have a letter ready to give my immediate resignation should that crap be replaced before my 2 weeks is up. I can’t believe I endured this nonsense for so long, but it’s so much harder to stand up for yourself when nobody supports you and you work at a place where people don’t tolerate rocking the boat. There are people at my office who won’t talk to me because they think I’m a jerk for taking away the “good” smells in the building, and for rocking the boat. Meanwhile, my chemical sensitivity is infinitely worse than it was before those HVAC repairs occurred.

    Good riddance to that place. I can’t wait for December 27!

    • I am so sorry you had to endure that torture! That’s what it is for us who are sensitive to chemical smell! My boss at work is now openly hostile to me because Ive complained about her overwhelming out of control perfume use. Many people in our large office notice the smell but it affects me the most. I had to leave work the other day and it made her even madder. I’m getting ready to quit. ☹️

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