Jon Vara, Editor, EDU
Worthy area of investigation Excellent piece about toxics and one that will probably stir up a hornet's nest for you. When I worked at a builder's magazine, I regularly (and unsuccessfully) proposed that we do a story looking into the phenomenon of multiple chemical sensitivities, where people need to live in special houses with unpainted plaster walls, no carpeting, etc. I believe that there's a substantial body of evidence suggesting that multiple chemical sensitivity DOES exist but that it's a psychosomatic problem, not a physiological one. [Editor's note: After Jon Vara posted this comment, GBA published an article on the topic he suggested: Helping People With Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.] As I understand it, the key distinction is that just because a problem is psychosomatic doesn't mean it's imaginary — maybe there's no direct physical cause, but it can make you very sick. In other words, a person with MCS probably isn't imagining their illness or making it up in the sense that a kid pretends to be sick to get out of going to school — the MCS sufferer may actually be running a fever, vomiting, etc. It's just that it's not directly caused by the outgassing from the plywood sheathing, but rather by the sufferer's fear and concern about the outgassing from the plywood. You can probably even cure it by getting rid of the plywood, but it was never really the plywood's fault. That's all loose talk on my part. But I think it would be useful and interesting to get the straight story from medical/public health experts. Surely there are some actual studies about this, as opposed to mushy anecdotal stuff? JV
Posted: 09:46 am on March 31st 2009
addressing the main issue I had hoped that someone would address the core issue: the experimental finding that people who are sickened by exposure to various substances--OSB, say--are not sickened unless they KNOW that they're being exposed. There are basically three ways to respond to such findings: First, you can dismiss them by claiming that researchers (the "medical community") either ran the experiments incorrectly, or are engaged in a conspiracy to hide the truth, and have manipulated the data with that goal in mind. As has been pointed out, that response is unanswerable. Second, you can further investigate the possibility that people are made ill by the knowledge that they are exposed to a substance, not by the substance itself. That is not to say that they are not made ill. People who suffer from MCS reject that for no good reason that I can see--it's as if they somehow believe that that mechanism it would mean that their illnesses are not "real." Third, you can propose a new testable hypothesis. Does anyone have one to offer? Am I missing anything?
Posted: 07:42 am on June 26th 2011
True, but... True, but in that case we're throwing science out the window again. The scientific method works by following the data where it leads. It doesn't work by saying, in effect, "I already know the answer, and since the data appears not to support my answer, the fault lies with the data." Maybe more and better data would provide a different answer, but the solution to that is more experimentation and more and better results, not a rejection of science.
Posted: 10:56 am on June 26th 2011