Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is a disorder triggered by exposure to chemicals in the environment. Exposure can occur through the air, food, water, or skin contact. Like allergies, symptoms tend to come and go with various exposures, although some people's reactions may be delayed.

Symptoms typically occur in more than one organ system in the body, such as the nervous system and the lungs. MCS typically impairs many bodily functions including the nervous system and digestion. MCS also affects the overall health and well being of those with the disorder. Each individual affected by MCS has a unique set of health problems. Some symptoms of MCS that could impact performance in courses and other college activities include headaches, asthma or breathing problems, memory loss, fatigue, and depression.

Students with MCS may experience difficulties with regular attendance and completing work assignments. Tasks that involve the use of, or exposure to, various chemicals such as those used science labs or artwork may be particularly difficult to complete. Examples of accommodations for students with MCS include flexible attendance due to frequent illness, or alternatives to assignments that involve irritating chemicals or materials. Students are the best sources of information about their needs. Supervisors should work with the student and disability service staff or human resources staff to determine the necessary accommodations for each student.


Accommodations for students with multiple chemical sensitivity may include:

  • Preferential seating near windows that open.
  • Providing a well-ventilated space that is free of pollutants such as tobacco smoke, pesticides, toxic and fragrant-laden cleaning products, deodorizers, and exhaust fumes.
  • Flexible attendance requirements.
  • Attention to chemicals in laboratory work and artwork.
  • Alternative assignments.

Related Links

Invisible Disabilities and Postsecondary Education (video)

More Resources

General Information on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

More Information

Explore DO-IT Publications, Knowledge Base articles, and websites on this topic at Accommodation Resources: Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. To learn about specific accommodations for an academic activity, select from the list below.