Chemical Intolerance – Comparing Gulf War Veterans & Other Affected Groups

This bloA stock image of destroyed building debrisg: Summarizes key findings from a study conducted by Claudia S. Miller and Thomas J. Prihoda (1999). A controlled comparison of symptoms and chemical intolerances reported by Gulf war veterans, implant recipients, and persons with multiple chemical sensitivities.



 Up to one-third of the U.S. population reported being either “especially” or “unusually” intolerant to certain chemicals, with about 5% reporting physician-diagnosed chemical intolerance (CI). Dr. Claudia Miller and colleagues developed the Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (EESI), a validated tool designed to assist researchers and clinicians in evaluating patients and populations for CI. In this study, Drs. Miller and Prihoda applied the EESI to five different population groups for comparison. Groups were CI patients (1) who did or (2) did not attribute onset of their illness to a specific exposure event, (3) patients with surgically implanted devices, (4) Gulf War veterans (GWV), and (5) controls. All of the exposure groups reported similar multi-system symptoms and new onset chemical, food and drug intolerances despite having different initiating exposures.

The overwhelming majority of patients (>85%) reported that their intolerances had affected their ability to work, compared to only 38% of controls. In recalling initial exposure events, the CI-event group most frequently mentioned exposure to various solvents and cleaners (54%), “indoor air contaminants” (45%), pesticides (24%), and to a lesser extent drugs and fragrances, as initiators of their illness. Nearly half of the GWV were unsure of their initiating exposures. The remaining GWV implicated oil fumes (26%) and drugs or vaccines (10%), contaminated food or water, and pesticides.

Symptoms were much worse for all patient groups than for controls. While controls attributed their most severe symptoms to tobacco smoke, patients implicated pesticides, paint, fragrances, cleaning products and, in the case of Gulf War veterans, diesel or gas engine exhaust. The fact that persons with these poorly understood conditions report such diverse symptoms, often involving different organ systems, has led some physicians to conclude that none of them rise to the level of a medically identifiable syndrome. However, this is because many doctors are unfamiliar with the disease process known as Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT), which describes the common process underlying these multi-system symptoms.

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To learn more about the TILT disease process, see

Article Categories: Blog, Chemical Intolerance/TILT