In a recent post I talked about the LDS Church website for and about members with disabilities. One page of that site discusses myths about members with disabilities. Some of these myths definitely apply to people with chemical sensitivities. For this post, I'll start with the first one:
There are very few people with disabilities in the average ward [congregation].
This myth can be dispelled by a few statistics relating the incidence of disability in the general U.S. population. According to government agency statisticians (see the website for references), 22% of adults in the U.S. report having a disability. Unfortunately, there have not been very many studies done on the incidence of MCS in the general population, but I found two. A 1997 study done in New Mexico found that 16% of the respondents were "unusually sensitive to everyday chemicals" and 2% had been diagnosed with MCS. In a study done in Australia in 2002, 24.6% of the respondents said that they or their children regularly feel unwell when exposed to certain chemical odors or smells, and 2.9% have been medically diagnosed with a chemical sensitivity.
If you take these statistics and apply they to an average LDS ward with 400 members, you would expect to find 88 members with some type of disability. You could also find eight to twelve members with diagnosable MCS and anywhere from 64 to 98 others who become ill in the presences of some chemicals. This is not an insignificant number of people.
So why are we so unaware of all these people with disabilities? The Church website gives two reasons. First, "most people who have disabilities cannot be identified by their appearance." Second, we don't see many members with disabilities because they simply aren't attending church meetings. Both of these reasons hold true for members with MCS.