Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Mildred Mailick

Committee Members

Paul Kurzman

Florence Vigilante

Subject Categories

Social Work


While no one explanation as to the possible nature of "multiple chemical sensitivities" has gained unanimous acceptance within the medical/science community, similar controversy does not exist with regard to the recognition of social problems generated for people suffering from this condition. In an effort to identify areas of psychosocial need requiring social work intervention, a descriptive study was carried out with a group of patients seen in an outpatient occupational health clinic. Medical charts of a deliberate sample of 423 clinic patients, seen during the period 1980-1990, were reviewed, yielding a total of 83 patients meeting criteria specific to MCS. Of the 83 individuals invited to participate in the study, 52 completed a structured interview. The interview elicited subjects' perceptions regarding many aspects of their health and social situation, including their experience with health care providers, the effect of the health problem on work and family life, and the cause(s) of their health problem, among others.

Findings were notable for similarities among subjects in their description of stages in the development and progression of a health problem felt to be chiefly physiological in nature. As described by a substantial portion of respondents, psychological and social components of the problem were felt to result from difficulties involved in coping with the effects of a chronic health problem which lacks formal recognition by the medical community and general public. Supportive relationships with family, professionals, and employers were perceived as helpful in subjects' efforts to cope with the problem. A majority of the sample were working; among the group of 17 respondents who were unemployed at the time of the interview, indoor air pollution was more often reported as the cause of their problem than were other exposures.

Implications of study findings for social policy, practice, research, and education are discussed.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.

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