Study validates quick screening for chemical intolerance, finds one in five affected

Nov. 1, 2021

A recent study validates the use of a brief questionnaire to screen patients for chemical intolerance. After a large national sampling, the researchers conclude the condition likely affects one in five people, according to a news release from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Previously, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, also known as UT Health San Antonio, developed a 50-question instrument that has become the international reference standard for research and diagnosis of chemical intolerance. It is known as the Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (QEESI).

But they since devised a three-question version, the Brief Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (BREESI), now validated by the new study as an effective initial screening tool, with a sample of 10,000 U.S. residents who took both surveys. The finding means that doctors now have an even quicker way of identifying possible chemical intolerance, which has been linked to a range of debilitating illnesses.

The findings were published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Chemical intolerance is characterized by multi-system symptoms triggered by low levels of exposure to certain chemicals, foods and food additives, and drugs and medications. Those symptoms can include allergic-like reactions, some very severe, and indicating specific illnesses or conditions.

From people responding to both questionnaires in the new study, the researchers noticed that the predicted probability of chemical intolerance increased sharply with each increase in the number of BREESI items endorsed. They calculated the overall prevalence of chemical intolerance in the sample at just more than 20%.

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