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?
[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 M.A., Ed.M., 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.


  1. I’ve had allergies/sensitivities to a lot of these things all of my life. Had to take allergy injections from age 3 to 14, when they had taken the antigens as high as they could go. I had several years of good health until a severe bout with mono in my early twenties. Started having more reactions to things, mainly in the form of migraines. When I turned 40, I started gaining weight, very tired and low energy. Finally, at 43 was diagnosed with hashimotos and started meds which helped somewhat. Last year, at age 48 I was also diagnosed with sjogrens. Hoping I don’t collect any more sensitivities or ai diseases!

  2. I have always been sensitive to smells, and can taste the chemicals in most preserved foods. I can’t tolerate birth control and most medication gives me major side effects. I was recently diagnosed with Hashimotos. This article is amazing!

  3. I have all the symptoms of Hypothroidism including short eyebrows, ingrown to ails and the usual pain and fatigue, loss of hair etc. I have be diagnosed with fibromyalgia but my pain is only in my upper body.. My tan comes back normal all the time and I know this is checking my pituitary gland they will not do a t 3 or 4 with tsh normal.what to do

  4. Michelle Waniski says

    I have not been diagnosed with thyroid disease, but another type of autoimmune disease called Sjogrens syndrome. My mother has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and surgery to remove it because of a goiter. She and I have reactions to many things listed in the article. I was told two years ago that I have a hypervascular thyroid after a thyroid scan. They repeated the scan a few months later and said it resolved on it’s own. My tsh levels have always been normal. Should I be concerned?

  5. Vicky McGarrity says

    I am having issues with a uniform also and don’t feel well when working, occasionally a rash, headache etc. Where do you start with testing?

  6. I’ve always had the standard spring allergies (which now last year round) and been sensitive to strong floral smells (thankfully, I can still tolerate spice smells). Allergy testing basically indicated I am allergic to living in Georgia/on Earth…LOL. I can’t remember exactly when I was diagnosed hypothyroid, but it would be at least a decade ago. I had a hysterectomy in 2013, and since then I have started having really weird reactions to things…including anaphylactic reaction to antimocrobial soap containing PCMX (which is used in mainly in hospital and food service facilities); deodorant/antiperspirants…for now am able to tolerate Tom’s of Maine by process of elimination; and I can’t take ibuprofen any more…it makes me violently ill, yet naproxen and acetaminophen are okay (for now)…those are just a few examples. It seems as the older I get, the more things my body doesn’t like.

  7. I always get sick in Sams Club near automotive. I think it’s the tires. I am very sensitive to spices. Ginger, allspice, cilantro, pumpkin pie spice but I love it. Most metals. I feel my health has gone down hill since knee replacements but they used titanium and I don’t have pain or swelling. But? I walk a lot now tho! Not diagnosed with thyroid disease tho mine is low-not low enough to treat.

  8. Dorothy Wirth says

    YES! I’ve identified allergies to many of the items listed above and have often thought of myself as a canary in a coal mine! The biggest offenders have been cigarette smoke, perfumes, new carpet, mold…oh, the list goes on and on. What I hadn’t identified was the hypothyroid link, although I’ve known I have hypothyroidism since 1966.
    I hate email updates. Do you have a Facebook page instead?

  9. I’ve been a newspaper reporter 41 years and was diagnosed with hypothyroidism 32 years ago. I’ve had a Maryland Bridge in my mouth for most of that time and after reading this I wonder if the metal it’s made of is nickel because I’ve had weird symptoms all these years. I react to so many medications even when a manufacturer changes or a pill color. I’m allergic to iodine dye/shellfish. I’ve always got something weird wrong with me that doctors SEE but can’t DIAGNOSE. I wonder if this is it?

  10. Tammy House says

    Wow, I just realized that alot of problems I am having are related to the chemicals in my house as well as at work. I’m a dialysis tech so we have bicarb and granuflo to make as well as bleach and other chemicals. Now I know what to discuss qith my doctor.

    • My work uniform has dyes and formaldehyde. Lots of co-workers are getting sick and my thyroid tsh has jumped from a 2 to 18 besides rash and extra fatigue! What type of doctor can help with detox or figuring out exact allergies?

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