The Effects of Pollution May Be Present in Clinical Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

The notion that an individual can develop maladies as the result of a number of chemicals present in the environment even at very low levels of concentration has been a societal concern since the dawning of an awareness of pollution as a detriment to the environment. Our collective consciousness began to identify the effects of the industrial waste created as a byproduct of manufacturing and urban living long ago. In recent times, the emergence of a collection of symptoms attributed to environmental exposure called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity has divided medical science.

The burning of coal has resulted in the development of smog and fouled the air since as early as 1,000 years ago. King Henry I of Britain famously threatened London residents with severe punishment for burning sea coal but his and ensuing leadership efforts to curb the burning of coal had little to no effect. This would be a trend of populations in denial of the effects of industrial progress until reality struck in the form of severe consequences that are controversial to this day.

America had problems as well due to coal burning, but with a larger area and a briefer history it would take a while for a national crisis to develop. Nevertheless, in 1948 in Donora, Pennsylvania, deadly smog resulted in the asphyxiation of 20 people and illness of 7,000 more. Across the ocean in London, however, the infamous smog of 1952 killed as many as 4000 people in a matter of days, resulting predictably in political action taken to curb the emission of smoke from the burning of coal.

For America, one of its most famous innovations would become the central actor in propelling pollution to the forefront of societies problems; the automobile. It would take until the decade of the 60s before our collective attention was focused on the results of environmental pollution. A book documenting among other things the effect of an environmental pesticide ingredient known as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, called DDT for short awakened a population to the danger of pollutants.

The use of pesticides laden with DDT could be shown to work its way through the ecosystem to the national symbol of America, the bald eagle. The national bird had endured decades of harassment by Americans and their wild population was rapidly diminishing in the 1930s resulting eventually in the passage of the Bald Eagle Protection Act which prohibited the killing, possession or commerce of the bird.

The impact of DDT on this bird of prey was twofold. It weakened the shell of its eggs to the point that the majority of them were crushed by the parents in their attempt to incubate them. At the same time, the level of DDT in the fatty tissue of dead Eagles revealed they had become sterile. This combination of effects logically led to the severe decrease in reproductive success of the animal and resulted in its drastic decline in wild population. The Bald Eagle was officially declared an endangered species in 1967, before the landmark endangered species act was enacted in 1973.

That the symbol of our nation could undergo such depredation both directly by those who considered them a threat to fisheries and as a secondary consequence of environmental pollution highlighted the problem of environmental neglect in America and across the globe. Some success has been recorded, with the Bald Eagle being one of them, their population having recovered to the point that they were officially removed from the endangered species list on June 28, 2007. Unfortunately, the eagle is one of few creatures that have fought their way back and off the list.

The impact of pollution to our environment leads one to question its impact on people. While the dramatic cases of London in 1952 and the Japan experience with cadmium poisoning, locally known as Itai Itai disease due to the extreme bone and joint pain associated with its presentation, the impact of pollution on humans is a concern not fully understood. One syndrome known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity may be the leading edge of an awareness of pollutions insidious health effects on man.