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. Toby Hoffman says

    37 years mcs – major issues in office I worked, many times had to stand just ourside conference rooom for daily meetings. Thank you – had no idea could be thyroid related.

  2. Armageddon will come before the doctors believe it and do something….I agree!
    I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through! My husband is going through the same♥️
    28 years ago my husband dug in dirt with benzene and jp4 jet fuel. He ended up with severe MCS.
    No Dr has ever believed it. The list of all the things you can be sensitive to is Everything my husband is sensitive to.
    Our house has been a safe house for all these years. People will still come over with things on that they can’t smell, that puts him in bed for a week with just a whiff.
    Family wonders how he has a (rare) good day and things dont seem to bother him quite as bad as other days. The judging never stops.
    My husband also has chronic pain from 3 back and 1 neck surgery. Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia also. The only thing he hasn’t been tested for is his thyroid….yet!
    I feel for every one of you. Know you aren’t alone. I appreciate all this information!♥️

  3. Lisa Marie says

    Please someone I need help this definitely sounds like me I worked for airline for 7 years and my symptoms got so bad Now I’m suffering I need leads to get help

  4. Oh, hell yes!! Hypothryroid since childhood and now it seems that I’m sensitive to everything. Once I moved into an apartment and they sprayed laquer on all the countertops to hide the ugly stains. I had a raging headache for days. I was so angry and the apartment manager did not open any doors or windows to let the chemical smell out, so it was very strong when I moved in.

  5. Cheryl Kolz says

    I have dealt with MCS for more than 35 years. I have reacted to most everything in my environment. I have been truly blessed to have found a wonderful NAET practitioner that has helped me to be able to live my life without the severe reactions that I was having. Life is still about what did I eat, What did I touch, What did I smell. Now for me to put a connection to my MCS and hypothyroidism. All other chronic illness I associated with the MCS.

  6. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in my mid 30’s and allergic reactions started around the same time. I have MCS and have varying degrees of reactions to most chemicals.
    Im 54 now and am experiencing swelling in my mouth but I can’t seem to determine what im reacting to. My home is scent free and I have air cleaners running all the time.
    Super interested in antedotes and information on this topic.

    • Joann Markgraf says

      Could you possibly be allergic to the sodium Lauryl Sulfate that is in many toothpastes? I am very allergic to it and have had to try more natural brands …

  7. I am intrigued by your article! I have a lot of these sensitivities but did not realize they could be thyroid related. What I want to know is how to fix it?!

  8. I have had reactions to strong fragrance or strong chemical smells since high school (35 yrs ago). I can get a migraine from someone else’s perfume esp. when traveling in a car with them. I used to use perfumes, but gave up for years. Now I can tolerate some occasionally. I thought they were “allergies.” Later, learned they were not true “allergies” but sensitivities. I’ve had some allergy test and controlling them has helped. I have never heard the term MCS nor its connection to the thyroid. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism 20 years ago and have been taking meds since then. Of the ones, I have tried Levoxyl works the best, but I have not tried Armour. I am exhausted often. There is so much conflicting information, it is hard to know what to try to feel better. Clean eating does seem to make me feel better.

  9. Kathi Peterson says

    So many of your posts hit home with me, especially this one. Sometimes I feel like my family thinks I am a hypochondriac. My husband doesn’t understand why so many smells bother me, when he can’t even smell most of them.

    I have been tested and have hypothyroidism. I am currently on levothyroxine. I am experiencing an issue with alopecia areata, on one area of my scalp, missing half of an eyebrow and eyelashes on the inner corner of one eye. They are all on the same side of my head and face, with the missing scalp hair being at the hairline above my forehead.

    I was tested and found I was allergic to methylisothiazolinone, which was my biggest reaction. People who are allergic to this chemical, found in shampoo, conditioner, lotions, liquid detergent, liquid fabric softener, as well as many other things, are also allergic to anything containing latex. My second biggest reaction was to Phenylendiamine PPDA, 1,4 Benzenediamine, a chemical found in dark colored hair dyes, as well as other dark dyes.
    Recently I was tested for food allergies, but showed no reaction to any of them, yet I would get hives after eating certain foods.

    I am now 72 and have been battling these issues most of my life. I was put on Synthroid when I was in my twenties because I had a swelling at the base of my neck. The swelling went away, so I quit the medication. No one told me I needed to continue taking it for life. This is probably why I have fought these issues all my life.

    I wish there were more doctors in Utah that treated thyroid disease. Thank you so much for all the information you provide.

  10. Jackie B-Hyatt says

    I’ve always had allergies, but I don’t react to allergy testing. In fact, one allergist I went to tested the histamine on herself to make sure it was active as I didn’t react to the histamine the way you’re supposed to. She showed me what the reaction should look like. She said there was nothing that could be done for me as I don’t show any reactions. Of course, 3 days later, my back was covered in bumps. My story is long and complicated, totally baffling to doctors. So, I’ve been called a hypochondriac by every kind of physician out there. I’ve even had National Jewish Hospital be unable to diagnose me with asthma because I have delayed reactions to their testing. Within a week after their test, I was on my way to developing a severe lung infection that would lay me up for weeks. Back then, MCS didn’t really have a name yet. I’ve spent much time educating my doctors on first, chronic Ebstein Barr…CFS, Fibromyalgia, MCS and the like. Even now days, I come across physicians that say they don’t believe in any of these illnesses. I don’t waste my time with them anymore. I have had a variety of reactions for years, including losing most of the hair on the top of my head, developing idiopathic rashes, tongue swelling, itching, sores, mild hypothyroidism, and the list goes on and on. Some family members have a milder version, or different diagnosis. Still others just consider me to be lazy and a hypochondriac. There will be doubters until the medical profession steps up with serious research. I think Armageddon will come before that happens. 62 years of dealing with issues makes one skeptical.

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