Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is characterised by adverse effects due to exposure to low levels of chemical substances. The aetiology is unknown, but chemical related respiratory symptoms have been found associated with positive patch test. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between cutaneous reactions from patch testing and self-reported severity of chemical sensitivity to common airborne chemicals. A total of 3460 individuals participating in a general health examination, Health 2006, were patch tested with allergens from the European standard series and screened for chemical sensitivity with a standardised questionnaire dividing the participants into four severity groups of chemical sensitivity. Both allergic and non-allergic cutaneous reactions--defined as irritative, follicular, or doubtful allergic reactions--were analysed in relationship with severity of chemical sensitivity. Associations were controlled for the possible confounding effects of sex, age, asthma, eczema, atopic dermatitis, psychological and social factors, and smoking habits. In unadjusted analyses we found associations between allergic and non-allergic cutaneous reactions on patch testing and the two most severe groups of self-reported sensitivity to airborne chemicals. When adjusting for confounding, associations were weakened, and only non-allergic cutaneous reactions were significantly associated with individuals most severely affected by inhalation of airborne chemicals (odds ratio = 2.5, p = 0.006). Our results suggest that individuals with self-reported chemical sensitivity show increased non-allergic cutaneous reactions based on day 2 readings of patch tests.
International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 2011, Vol 214, Issue 3, p. 239-45