Prevalence of self-reported symptoms and consequences related to inhalation of airborne chemicals in a Danish general population

  • Nikolaj Drimer BergEmail author
  • Allan Linneberg
  • Asger Dirksen
  • Jesper Elberling
Original Article



To estimate the prevalence and consequences of self-reported symptoms related to inhalation of airborne chemicals in a Danish general population.


A random sample of 18–69-year-old individuals (n = 6,000) was drawn from the Danish Civil Registration System. A questionnaire on self-reported symptoms related to inhalation of 11 categories of airborne chemicals was mailed to the population. Respondents who reported symptoms received an additional questionnaire to verify the reported symptoms and to characterise factors related to the initial onset of symptoms.


The response rate to the primary questionnaire was 71%. A total of 1,134 individuals (27%, 95% CI 25–28) reported symptoms related to inhalation of airborne chemicals, 141 individuals (3.3%, 95% CI 2.8–3.9) reported adjustments of social life or occupational conditions due to symptoms, whereas 20 individuals (0.5%, 95% CI 0.3–0.7) had made adjustments of both social life and occupational conditions. Women reported more exposures as annoying than men and had more symptoms related to inhalation of airborne chemicals (P < 0.001). However, sex had no effect on the reporting of adjustments of social life or occupational conditions (P = 0.54).


Symptoms related to inhalation of airborne chemicals were common in this general population, and a minority reported that these symptoms affected social life or occupational conditions. Women as compared to men reported more symptoms but not adjustments of social life or occupational conditions.


Epidemiology Population-based Prevalence Multiple chemical sensitivity Idiopathic environmental intolerance 



We thank Susanne Schweitz and Anne Marie Topp who provided valuable secretarial assistance. The study was financially supported by Aage Bangs Foundation and the Asthma and Allergy Association of Copenhagen. The funding sources had no involvement on the work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nikolaj Drimer Berg
    • 1
    Email author
  • Allan Linneberg
    • 2
  • Asger Dirksen
    • 3
  • Jesper Elberling
    • 1
  1. 1.The Danish Research Centre for Chemical Sensitivities, Gentofte HospitalUniversity of CopenhagenGentofteDenmark
  2. 2.Research Centre for Prevention and Health, Glostrup HospitalUniversity of CopenhagenGlostrupDenmark
  3. 3.Department of Respiratory Medicine Y, Gentofte HospitalUniversity of CopenhagenHellerupDenmark

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