Ecopsychology: An Australian Perspective

Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) are serious emerging health issues the world over. Despite evidence of a physiological etiology, MCS and EHS continue to be regarded as psychiatric disorders in some countries. Case study documents an Australian family sensitized to numerous everyday chemicals and electromagnetic frequencies as a consequence of exposure to organophosphate and organochlorine insecticides and phenoxy herbicides. Further exposure to toxicants additionally sensitized the mother to light, sound, and pain, the latter manifesting as chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Ignoring documentation from her ecologist, skeptical social workers used the Mental Health Act to have her forcibly removed from her controlled environment. Placed in psychiatric care, she was diagnosed as psychotic on the rationale that, as neither MCS nor EHS existed, belief in their physicality constituted a delusion, which was in itself a manifestation of psychosis. The sole ground for involuntary commitment was “Fixed belief that she is sensitive to chemicals and electromagnetic forces.” The upshot of exposure to seven classes of neurotoxic chemicals, MCS is now believed to be underpinned by excessive levels of nitric oxide and NMDA overstimulation; in effect a pathologization of the long-term memory formation process, this type of hypersensitivity could thus also be termed hypermemory.

Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) must surely be counted among the most disabling, most isolating, soul-destroying, and least understood of contemporary illnesses. Ultrasensitive to chemicals both natural and synthetic, the worst-affected MCS patients are the world over forced to live in virtual isolation.

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