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QEESI Study Draws Connection between Chronic Illness and Chemical Sensitivity

UT Health Science Center
Dr. Claudia Miller developed the Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory to help doctors and patients pinpoint chemical sensitivities that may be causing health problems.

Sensitivity to household chemicals, perfumes, and air pollution often go undetected, but now there’s a way for patients, especially those with mysterious medical symptoms, to discover if they are sensitive to certain chemicals.

The QEESI, or Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory, is now available online. This 15-minute questionnaire developed by San Antonio researcher Dr. Claudia Miller, allows individuals to rate their reactions to things like car exhaust, nail polish, paints, and pesticides.

Dr. Miller, a researcher at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio and professor at the University of Texas School of Medicine, developed the test because chemical sensitivities are common in an estimated 20 percent of chronically-ill patients, but are rarely diagnosed by physicians.

The QEESI delivers an evaluation that can help doctors determine if their patients’ illnesses stem from chemical intolerances.

“If it’s over 40 on the symptoms scale, over 40 on the intolerances, and over 20 on the other intolerances, it’s really clear,” Miller said.

San Antonio resident, Stephanie Pope Mion, suffers from several random symptoms diagnosed as immune system problems.

“It’s been a variety of symptoms, as far as joints hurting, my skin feeling raw and burning, being very tired, not being able to think clearly,” Mion said.

According to Miller, symptoms with unknown causes are typical of a chemically-sensitive person. And, she says there are many exposures that can trigger sensitivity and cause a previously unrecognized disease process that she calls “TILT” – or Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance.

“Chemicals, foods and medications, too. People lose tolerance for medications they may have taken for years or foods that they’ve enjoyed. It might be barbecue, it might be cashews. But it’s very specific for that individual,” Miller said.

Mion took the test and looks forward to taking the results to her doctor.

“Because I noticed one of the things it asked me was about certain perfumes. And I know there are certain perfumes out there that I smell and get an instant headache. It really kind of makes me think about the fact that, before when I wasn’t having immune system problems, I don’t remember being this sensitive to things like that. So I can definitely see where I’ve gotten more sensitive,” Mion said.

The study is available at QEESI.org and can be taken on any computer or handheld device. Miller says the treatment for chemical sensitivity involves simply avoiding or eliminating the offending chemicals.

Miller’s QEESI is the only screening that has been validated in multiple countries and languages and that comprehensively measures symptoms severity, severity of intolerances, and life impact.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.