More than 80,000 new, man-made chemicals have been introduced into the environment in the last seventy years. Many of these are ‘high-volume,’ meaning billions of tons have been used and consumed over the years.

Many negative health impacts from this chemical world have been documented, beginning in the 1960s. We face a fundamental physical reality: our species did not co-evolve with these chemicals, and many of us do not have the capacity to withstand the harmful effects of them.

Increasingly, clear connections between many widespread and well-known common chronic conditions and chemicals in widespread use, both historically (e.g., DDT) and currently, both industrially and in domestic circumstances, have been established in the scientific and medical literature.

For a useful overview of connections between early exposures and life-long effects check out Early Exposures to Hazardous Chemicals/Pollution and Associations with Chronic Disease: A Scoping Review 2011.)

The better-known connections include but are not limited to the following conditions: cardio-vascular illnesses, cardiac birth defects, low birth weight, obesity, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s, developmental neurotoxicity, cancers (breast, prostate, testicular and others), and respiratory disease.

Such links to chemicals are exceptionally strong in the three chronic, environmentally linked conditions of ES/MCS, ME/CFS and FM. Increasingly, research is showing that  – many sufferers are what is known as ‘poor detoxifiers’: people who do not metabolize and eliminate ubiquitous chemicals well.

With respect to ES/MCS, chemical exposures to such materials as pesticides, new building materials, work-place chemicals and chemicals involved in oil spills or other petroleum-related industries have been shown – whether in acute circumstances or over time – to be key factors in the development of this condition.


“It all happened as a result of exposure to incorrectly mixed adhesive chemical to repair a windshield in my vehicle. I started getting symptoms within about fifteen minutes of being in my vehicle. Things started to go weird and life … went to hell in a hand basket … It wasn’t until I saw Dr. B. that she diagnosed the FM and chemical sensitivity and the toxic brain injury.” Sandra MCS FM

At the same time, a number of approaches (including genomic, biochemical/toxicological and neuroplastic) indicate that the other two conditions not only often overlap ES/MCS but also are affected by environmental exposures.

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Those with one or more of the CELCs in Canada numbered 1,135,500 in 2005 and 1,415,000 in 2010 – an increase of 25% in just five years.

Probably at least ES/MCS is significantly under-diagnosed, and possibly ME/CFS and FM as well. This may be especially true for men.

The conditions exist on a gradient from mild to severe, and can be experienced at any age. An increasing number of children have been diagnosed with ES/MCS, for example.

All three involve central nervous system symptoms, immune system involvement is evident, and all can affect multiple organ systems.

All three produce devastating symptoms that can lead to total disability.

ES/MCS and ME/CFS are life-threatening at severe levels.

It is common for persons to have more than one of these conditions at the same time.

In Ontario today, all three conditions can be considered ‘orphan illnesses’ that do not fit anywhere in our health care system, with the exception of a small, assessment-only clinic at Women’s College Hospital which has a three-year waiting list.