Multiple Chemical Sensitivities: Stigma and Social Experiences

Abstract

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), an intolerance to everyday chemical and biological substances in amounts that do not bother other people, is a medically contested condition. In addition to symptoms and the ongoing difficulties of living with this condition, this hidden and stigmatized disability strongly impacts social relationships and daily life. Based on an ethnographic study, this article introduces the context of MCS in terms of cultural themes, the media, and the economic power of industries that manufacture the products that make people with MCS sick. Participants’ experiences with family members and friends, in work and school settings, and with physicians exemplify the difficulties of living with MCS. I dedicate this article to Joan Ablon, my professor and mentor, whose work has always inspired my thinking and research topics.