Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Problems with the Federal Interagency Workgroup's Draft Report on MCS


Problems With the Federal Interagency Workgroup's Draft Report on MCS
Presented by Albert Donnay to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine Annual Meeting in Baltimore, 7 November 1998

  1. None of the 8 agencies in the Interagency Workgroup report their current or past funding for MCS research, except the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which acknowledges only $250,000 appropriated by Congress in 1993.
  2. The Environmental Protection Agency omits a 1996 staff report that found MCS was the most commonly reported chronic effect of chlorpyrifos poisoning (in 58% of cases) and another that found 1/3 of the Library of Congress staff in each of three buildings complained of MCS.
  3. The Department of Veterans Affairs describes several research projects underway but gives none of their results. These include a finding of 36% with MCS in the self-selected Gulf War Registry and 15% with chemical sensitivity in a random nationwide survey of all deployed veterans compared to 5% of the non-deployed.
  4. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention denies even doing any MCS research, but its latest paper on Gulf War veterans appeared in JAMA less than a month later reporting chemical sensitivity in 5% of still active duty Air Force in Pennsylvania who were deployed to the Persian Gulf compared to 2% of the non-deployed, replicating still unpublished findings of an earlier CDC study of active duty and reserves in Iowa that found 5.4% MCS among the deployed compared to 2.6% of the non-deployed. Although the Department of Defense collaborated in both these studies, it does not mention either one or any other MCS data it has collected.
  5. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health also does not mention funding any MCS research, yet at least 3 studies it funded are discussed elsewhere in the draft report (Davidoff and Fogarty 1994, Davidoff and Keyl 1996, and Nethercott et al 1993).
  6. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reports sponsoring workshops on MCS at Rutgers University in 1995 and 1996 and lists the recommendations of each but only one was actually held (in 1995). It mentions funding MCS research but does not identify a single study.
  7. Department of Energy reports "informal sampling" of its medical clinic directors about MCS but gives no information on when this was done, how or what results were obtained.
  8. Although supposed to include all agencies involved in MCS research, the Interagency Workgroup did not include the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders whose Chemical Senses Branch spends millions annually on "chemosensory" research ($29 million in FY1997). It funded the 1994 discovery that carbon monoxide (CO) acts as a neurotransmitter in mature olfactory neurons, controlling sensitization & habituation. CO also plays key role in vision, memory, GI tone and blood vessel tone, all of which are commonly abnormal in MCS patients.
  9. These errors and omissions suggest a deliberate effort to cover-up the significant MCS research already funded by federal agencies. The credibility of the Workgroup and this report are also undermined by their failure to disclose that the first draft was actually written by a board member of the chemical industry's Environmental Sensitivities Research Institute, Dr. Frank Mitchell, who is listed on the last page only as a "consultant" without disclosure of either his ESRI affiliation or his funding: a Postgraduate Research Program grant from ATSDR for which he--as a recently retired ATSDR employee--may not have been eligible. In response to a formal complaint about this filed by MCS Referral & Resources, the Workgroup's hiring of Dr. Mitchell is now the subject of a US Government Accounting Office investigation.

The report is available free for public comment until Dec.15, 1998, by calling 1-800-447-1544
It also is available on-line for electronic comment at


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Last Modified: 11/8/98