Monday, February 12, 2007

More Evidence for Physical Causation of MCS

A German study relating particular genes to chemical sensitivity was published Saturday in the on-line, peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health. The genes code for enzymes that help break down and detoxify a wide variety of common chemicals, including both pharmaceuticals and known carcinogens. Eckart Schnakenberg and the other authors of the study are actually illuminating the important role of environmental exposures in causing chemical sensitivity by helping us understand the genetics. (No, folks, it's really not an either/or situation and their work is not a disguised attempt to blame the victims or suggest that we are a tiny group of strange mutants who collapse under our own weight without provocation.)

One of the studied enzymes, an N-acetyltransferase (NAT), is involved in the metabolism (break down) of substances "produced in industry, and found in cigarette smoke as well as the human diet." Around half of all Caucasians carry a variation that's slower rather than faster at its job. People who have it don't clear low-dose carcinogens from the body as efficiently as the rest of the population. The Schnakenberg study showed that they are also likelier to report problems with chemical sensitivity.

Two other genes the researchers examined code for glutathione S-transferases (GST), which are also involved in detoxification. These genes are more frequently deleted on both chromosomes in the chemically sensitive. That is to say that neither mom or dad contributed a copy of one or both genes. And no gene, no enzyme.

I'm sure it's still a long road to understanding the mechanisms for Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), but studies like Shnakenberg's should silence the it's-all-in-your-head crowd at some point along the way. As we know, that bunch is still annoyingly noisy, but you'll notice its "experts" tend to ignore, rather than try to refute, this type of ground-breaking research. You are born with your genes and the ones that are being associated with chemical sensitivity are implicated not in mental illness, but in protecting the body from toxic chemicals.

My knowledge of biology is rusty, so if I have made any errors in my effort to summarize the Germans' work please let me know. Also, for a better explanation of the relevant scientific concepts and terminology please see an excellent article on a pioneering and closely-related study published by Gail McKeown-Eyssen and her colleagues in 2004.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Social Insecurity

What does an attorney need to do to win a Social Security disability case when the diagnosis is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)? An article that goes a long way toward answering that question just popped up in my inbox, courtesy of Google Alerts. "Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Recognition to Proof" is authored by two attorneys and a doctor. Refreshingly absent from the piece is the hopeless tone I generally associate with pronouncements on this topic.

Not that I'm complaining about despair. It can really be very helpful in taking the edge off the panic. My own Social Security case looks as if it may languish a second year before I find myself in front of a judge. I'm not much looking forward to the encounter, so I wouldn't mind the delay, if it weren't for the little matter of the rent.

The key element to a successful case is stated as follows:

It cannot be too strongly emphasized that your client, if possible, obtain the services of a medical doctor who not only accepts the existence of MCS but is willing to report in some detail that MCS exists and how in the claimant's condition prevents reliable, predictable, consistent functioning ...

Here's where the Catch-22 comes in for people who urgently need disability. Who could afford the other-worldly fees of this postulated angel of mercy? I've had an earth-bound practitioner all picked out for some time, who comes dear enough, and haven't been able to bring myself to part with the few months of rent I have in hand. Sorry to be a downer; just telling it like it is.