Steve Monroe: County Representative, Jefferson County, Washington State
The Chemical Connection:
November 1984, after being in near perfect health and working full time, I got quite ill and was bedridden for days unlike anything experienced before - or as badly. At the time it was believed to be the flu and was expected to "go away" in a few days.
It took several days to get back on my feet and even after returning to work I was not the same. I still had a host of multiple medical problems. Several doctors though were able to confirm that "nobody" could explain all the symptoms; such as; general weakness; blurred vision; a level of fatigue previously uhknown.
Later I learned that doctors "assume" there is a mental problem like stress with the "un-explainable's" and that anti-anxiety drugs were their primary scripts for "treatment" (although there was understandable anxiety resulting from fighting through all these new medical problems with no clear answers).
It took about 2 years to get back to somewhat normal over time and after moving away (1984) from the sprayed building I was living in things seemed to slowly improve.
In 1988 I was still seeing several doctors and was referred to a neurologist as the other doctors suspected MS - but he ruled that out. This neurologist was the 1st ever doctor to finally ask about "environmental conditions past and present" as a possible cause of various on-going, unexplainable symptoms.
All environmental chemicals used at work (and also previous residence) were mentioned and when pesticides came up in conversation he asked about what I remembered about the spraying in 1984; spraying that took place just days before getting so sick I couldn't even hold a then 14 pound daughter for more than 3 minutes due to disabling weakness. The neurologist said that he believed chemicals - and more directly pesticide exposure history - was the likely original cause for my health problems.
Until 1988 I was totally clueless about this kind of thing even being possible since the problem chemical products were sold in stores, but this neurologist was years ahead of his time and knew about Central Nervous System (CNS) damage from environmental causes. No doctor, either before or SINCE, has ever questioned me on any of this!
Sadly, just when the "chemical theory" was finally being followed, the neurologist had to quit the practice and I lost all health insurance due to financial problems as a result of reduced working. Later I moved residence to a new town and re-located my business too. Health then gradually improved but never got back to pre-1984 levels. However, I got by as best I could.
1990 was the year I re-located business to another building and experienced more health improvements. Things were holding even then - for a time - until about 1997. Then more health problems. I knew these health problems were more likely to happen when I was at the business shop (rather than in the field) and also when I was around my then teenage daughters (who began using perfumes which gave me headaches and sinus problems that only got worse over time).
Around this time I knew something was 'wrong' with the building but never knew exactly what. The daughters perfumes at home were a definite known health-problem trigger yet my wife and daughters refused to stop using them.
A divorce took place in 1998 and I was forced to live in my shop that now had an odd smell. A new tenant (in suite #2 next to me) noticed the problems also and used OZONE generators thinking that would "cure" the smell. Extensive efforts went into sealing the suites #3 and #4 I rented to block the ozone smell from industrial size generators designed for large rooms.
Then the new tenants at suite #2 let some persons sleep in there and their health was affected also to the extent (I learned later) that one male subject was throwing up daily inside the suite next to mine. Once they moved out it was found that the ice business equipment (in the same building at suite #1) had been leaking freon R-12. Via a service technician I questioned I discovered that there were also other chemicals used in the "ice room" and that these had traveled through the entire building.
I was really sick again in the 1999 time period. I could barely work and used then part time employees to handle most of it for me. Once the building was known to be "toxic" we tried to fan out the smells as best we could and moved the office into another room farther from room with problem chemicals. But it was too late. The then business landlord didn't help solve the problem at all and, instead, tired to cover the whole problem up as if it never happened.
I should also mention here that, at times, customers in the late 1990's also mentioned a "strange" smell in the business building about the exact same time as things went downhill again.
So this is a brief summary of extensive exposures to now known toxic compounds like pesticides, industrial chemicals, and household members using perfumes. I got a computer about 1999 also and began finding others around the net with similar health experience problems and began to research on health and chemicals on-line. What I found confirmed what the 1988 neurologist had believed and the other doctors and "experts" had said "wasn't" the reason.
About 1999 to 2000 approximate, I finally got an MD to confirm - in writing - to another doctor that she "suspects patients problems are connected to chemical exposures". Later, about 2002, an ARNP came to that conclusion and referred me to yet another MD for "Sick Building Sndrome". I my personal files I have the paper-work stating this but at the time was in the process of doing an application for medical disability and was not able to get any agency to do air samples. And due to costs ($4,000) I was unable to afford a private testing firm.
At the time of writing (April 2007) I'm 53 years old and on SSDI due to various (and extensive) medical problems that began suddenly around late 1984 and from which I have never fully recovered. Around 2000 a medical doctor suggested " I apply for medical disability". I did so and it was granted on the 1st application.
The 20 some year old business was finally shut-down in late 2001 due to medical problems that increased throughout 1999 and continued to get worse. Around 2000, with failing health and the loss of my business - that had great promise and a large customer base - I was even suicidal at times. Losing the business was tough and knowing it was exposures to chemical substances made it even more bitter. The health system at the time was not helping. Nobody was listening to me or believed that stuff like perfumes were causing serious health problems. Additionally, with multiple changes in doctors and insurance plans you're tossed around like a baseball from one MD to another.
I now also have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Bi-lateral Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, along with my severe MCS. I had to wait one year to file for Social Security Disability, after I got laid off. Then I waited 24 months for my hearing, from when my attorney filed for Social Security Disability, which I won in May of 2006. Now that I'm 100% disable, and I'm learning to live again. I have to wear a dual filtered, 1/2 face mask, every time I leave my home. I'm very grateful I was taught, when you fall down, you get back up, with what you got.
Psychosomatic was what most were thinking but I knew better. I also knew the whole situation I was in was very depressing and, trying to keep a business running while sick most days, high-anxiety producing too. During the last 2 years that the business ran I did my best to keep it going but often I just couldn't manage. Some days I simply placed sign on the door which said "closed due to illness".
In early 1998, after becoming single and homeless from divorce, I joined a local fire dept. Getting away from my daughters perfumes improved health enough that I felt I would give it a try and see how things went. I needed some social contacts. Additionally, when my former business was still running, the 911 emergency services were my primary accounts so I knew the fire service well and police dept's also - and the EMS procedures.
My first few months with the fire dept went pretty well and business was still operational though I was still struggling somewhat with my health - as I had been for years.
Today some doctors are FINALLY starting to consider the environmental factors and I have had a few that even believe Multiple Chemical Sensitivity ( MCS ) is real privately but, due to legal or political reasons, can't say so openly in written reports since we still have no "official IDC-9 or 10 code" for MCS but several do exist for toxic exposures. Oddly, in my direct experience, many doctors are not aware of the 900 series IDC-9 toxic codes (I later provided them with copies of them).
Today's primary defense, medically, is to avoid (when possible) exposures to toxic chemicals or keep them to a minimum. The longer one can stay "free" of them the more things improve.
Nowadays, I limit my travels (unlike years ago) and stay home as much as possible in my "safe house". It's not possible to avoid everything but your guard is always up when out of your home space. The grocery stores can be one's worse problem or ANY public place with scented products or persons wearing them!
It's a very restrictive lifestyle and you have to plan around the unknowns as best you can. I hope in the near further to see a board certified EI doctor in the Seattle area but for the time being ND's or chiropractors have been my best resources - and not the mainstream doctors in my rural area.
The Wider Context:
We're losing the war on a global level from the proliferation of toxic compounds. Even the United States Food & Drug Association ( FDA ) says pregnant women should NOT be eating fish due to high mercury levels.
Attention Deficit Disorder ( ADD ) was un-heard of years ago before recently new increases in vaccines and today even the US CDC figures show autism now hits 1 in every 160 children.
When I was in high school in the 1970's few classmates had any serious health conditions out of a school with about 700 students. Today I live in a small town that only has about 300 students in grades K to 12 and medical problems are the rule rather than the exception. Seems like most have some medical label today and are being medicated for something or other.
Cancers are off the charts locally with children; some under 5 years old. I can't remember a single cancer case in my school days years ago yet today it's quite common. Something is very wrong with this picture.
The evidence, in my mind, is clear: Most all medical problems are directly related to toxic compound exposures. The many internet contacts I have had these past few years - and their personal stories - only confirm this for me. Additionally, many dozens of studies now exist showing the "chemical connection" to many modern medical problems. Sadly, many of these - very rare just 30 years ago - are now household names.