Chemical Sensitivity in Japan
UPdate spring 2005

Chemical sensitivity is a worldwide phenomenon. A recent study in Japan investigated the relationship between exposures and hypersensitive responses in 15 MCS patients. Patients had been diagnosed with MCS at the Kitasato Institute Hospital.

The study used sophisticated equipment to measure airborne levels of carbonyls (formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acetone), and other organic compounds including benzene, toluene, a-pinene and 30 others. They tracked the reactions of MCS patients, and measured chemical compounds in the air when reactions took place. They found that MCS patients suffered reactions at levels far below those of other people, and at levels significantly below the odor threshold, the level at which they would normally be detectable by smell. The levels were also far below standards set for indoor air by the World Health Organization and the Japanese Government.

Different patients experienced reactions to different chemicals, and at different levels. The most common reactions were nausea and headaches. Other reactions included dizziness, shortness of breath and asthma, joint pain, eye irritation and aches, hives and a variety of other symptoms. These hypersensitivity reactions often occurred in the presence of minute levels of chemicals, as low as 6 parts per billion.

Of the 15 MCS patients included in the survey, 11 reported that a possible factor in the onset of their chemical sensitivity was moving to a new house.