Original Article

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health

, Volume 82, Issue 4, pp 509-517

First online:

Phenotypes of individuals affected by airborne chemicals in the general population

  • Nikolaj Drimer BergAffiliated withThe Danish Research Centre for Chemical Sensitivities, Gentofte Hospital, University of Copenhagen Email author 
  • , Allan LinnebergAffiliated withResearch Centre for Prevention and Health, Glostrup Hospital, University of Copenhagen
  • , Asger DirksenAffiliated withDepartment of Respiratory Medicine Y, Gentofte Hospital, University of Copenhagen
  • , Jesper ElberlingAffiliated withThe Danish Research Centre for Chemical Sensitivities, Gentofte Hospital, University of Copenhagen

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To characterise the chemical exposures and symptoms affecting individuals with subsequent adjustments of social life or occupational conditions, and further characterise these severely affected individuals.


All individuals (n = 1,134) who reported symptoms from airborne chemical exposures in a population-based questionnaire study of 6,000 individuals were included and dichotomised according to severity. Logistic regression models were used to characterise the group of severely affected individuals.


Severely affected individuals reported more symptoms and exposures related to symptoms than less severely affected individuals, and the number of symptoms was more predictive for severity than the number of exposures. Most predictive for the severity of reported symptoms were CNS-symptoms other than headache (OR = 3.2, P < 0.001) and exposure to freshly printed papers or magazines (OR = 2.0, P = 0.001).


CNS-symptoms except from headache were a main characteristic of individuals severely affected by common chemical exposures in a general population-based sample.


Phenotypes Symptoms Population-based Airborne chemicals Multiple chemical sensitivity Idiopathic environmental intolerance