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Role of Portable Room Air Cleaners in the Prevention and Treatment of MCS
by Doris J. Rapp, M.D.

An estimated 74 million Americans are affected by some form of chemical sensitivity. Ten million are forced to change how they live, for they can no longer carry on a normal way of life. These numbers show Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) is a growing epidemic, becoming more pervasive due to the increasing number of chemicals in the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe inside and outside our homes, schools, and workplaces.

Every aspect of our lives is affected by chemicals. On average, approximately 80,000 chemicals are used in the United States, 10 percent of which have been only partially evaluated for safety. Many times, these tests include no evaluations of a chemical's effects on the unborn, infants, children, or the elderly.

MCS sufferers characteristically have very individualized symptoms, and any area of the body can be affected. Pesticide exposures alone can create a multitude of chronic health problems, including hyperactivity, aggression, impaired learning, and mood changes. Typically, chemical exposure tends to damage the brain and nervous system, affecting actions, behavior, and memory. As little as one exposure to a toxic chemical, in even minute concentrations during fetal development, can have major detrimental health effects. And, if an entire family is exposed, then often all members are affected. In fact, it's when pets develop seizures that families are first alerted by veterinarians that their pets, as well as themselves, may have been poisoned by a chemical used in or around their home.

Despite the large population of Americans affected, MCS is one of the least recognized medical disorders. Less than two percent of practicing physicians or health providers are formally trained in the recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of MCS. It is not unusual for some patients to live years, or their lifetime, unaware of the true cause of their medical complaints. Those who do figure it out, are often not believed by health providers and family alike. To complicate matters, this illness often requires major financial and personal support from family and friends. If sufferers are not believed to be ill, it can be a lonely, frustrating, and exasperating illness. With help and time, however, MCS can typically be dealt with. There are many steps you can take to safeguard you and your family against these chemicals.

One major step is to regulate the air in your home. Americans spend at least 80 percent of their time indoors where the air can be two-to-five times dirtier than outside air. By simply installing an air purifier or cleaner, you can effectively remove gases, odors, chemicals, and particles. For some, this will lower the total exposure of offending substances below a level that causes symptoms. This can lead to major improvements overnight. Mothers may be alarmed the first time their child sleeps soundly. They rush in only to find nothing wrong. For the first time, their child is simply breathing normally.

Since almost all MCS sufferers also have associated allergies to dust, pollen, and household mold, attention to indoor air quality is of prime importance. The Austin Air line of portable air cleaners filters 99.97 percent of all airborne particulates larger than .03 microns. Using the True Medical HEPA, the Healthmate and Healthmate Plus models are excellent choices for anyone with MCS, asthma, or allergies, or for individuals with the vision to appreciate the value of preventing health problems by simply breathing better indoor air. To more efficiently remove chemicals, certain Austin Air machines provide coconutbased carbon for extremely chemically sensitive individuals. Unlike many other air cleaners, an Austin Air cleaner will not "off-gas" (or release) any harmful chemicals. The unit's solid steel construction is painted with a powder-coated finish, preventing chemical release.

The Healthmate Plus contains carbon that has been impregnated with potassium iodide and zeolite, which remove an array of airborne chemicals and is highly recommended for formaldehyde and ammonia removal. The Healthmate Plus can clean the air in a 1,500- square-foot area. Its more compact counterpart, the Healthmate Junior Plus, can clean up to 700 square feet.

The most common ways to relieve the symptoms of MCS include decreasing your exposure to environmental allergens and chemicals. A clean air environment not onlyreduces itchy eyes and relieves sore throats, it also helps to eliminate known toxins stored in your body and to rebuild your immune system with needed nutrients. Purer forms of water and organic food will also provide you and your family with a much better and faster chance of regaining or maintaining health. By combining these simple measures, there is practical and realistic hope for both the treatment and prevention of MCS.