Posts tagged ‘intolerance’

Lessons for Doctors and Employees in the Google Incident

Hundreds of Google employees were exposed for months to the toxic chemical TCE, or trichloroethylene, at the search company’s offices in Mountain View, Calif.

No employees reported becoming sick but such exposures can take months or even years to cause problems.

Repeated chemical exposures can produce the condition called TILT, or Toxicant-induced Loss of Tolerance. People with TILT suffer from chemical intolerances that can impair cognitive abilities and cause multi-symptom illnesses.

Cases like Google’s are becoming common worldwide where industrial chemicals have been buried or released underground, and slowly seep up into structures built over them, affecting occupants of buildings.

Google’s buildings are near a known underground pool of contaminants. The EPA has monitored the site since 2003 and detected the high levels of TCE in December 2012. Several companies once manufactured silicon chips near the site.
TCE is usually used as an industrial solvent.

Google says employee health was never at risk and building improvements will prevent any future episode. But nonetheless health professionals and Google employees need to understand:

  • No chemical exposure is minor. Repeated low-level exposures, such as in a “sick building,” or a one-time, high-level exposure such as at a chemical spill or pesticide accident, can initiate TILT. For many individuals who have been “TILTed,” life is no longer the same. It affects their health, their ability to work or go to school, and other activities in perpetuity. Thereafter even low levels of common cleaning chemicals, fragrances, gasoline at a gas station, diesel exhaust, outgassing from new furnishings, carpet, and other products can trigger symptoms that range from mild to disabling.
  • Doctors need help in diagnosing chemical illnesses. Most physicians don’t understand chemical intolerance or test patients for it. A medical study in July 2012 found that chemical intolerance contributes to the illnesses of 1 in 5 patients but their condition seldom is diagnosed. Patients and physicians need to know about and use a widely accepted screening instrument for multiple chemical intolerance that’s called “QEESI,” short for Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory. Download it here.

Gulf War Syndrome Comes to the Gulf of Mexico

Millions of dollars from the BP Claims Fund are being poured into healthcare efforts in the wake of the  Deepwater Horizon disaster “to expand access to healthcare in underserved communities,” for “behavioral and mental health needs,” to “train community health care workers on peer listening, community resiliency and other related issues,” and to “expand and improve environmental health expertise, capacity and literacy.”

And yet, not one dime has been allocated to study how the toxic exposures  resulting from this disaster have rendered thousands of workers and residents chemically sensitive and suffering from the same disabling multi-system symptoms that afflict the hundreds of thousands of American soldiers who suffer from what has become known as Gulf War Syndrome.

What we are witnessing, in fact, is the emergence of an entirely new disease mechanism that has grown out of the post-World War II petrochemical age and rendered millions of Americans who have suffered toxic exposures chronically ill. And the only way to help victims of toxic exposures and those in the future is to go after this mechanism.

How the settlement landed so far off the mark is anyone’s guess. One $14.4 million grant will send mental health counselors to the Gulf Coast.

People along the Gulf Coast are reacting to this news of misdirected largesse. As a reader of the Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register posted on the newspaper’s website, “Who will contain the money spill?”

Related link: My earlier message “To Gulf Oil Spill Responders: What You and Your Doctors Need to Know About TILT.”

Responders to the Deepwater Horizon spill, like the clean-up workers in the Exxon Valdez accident 20 years ago, have long been reporting chronic health problems associated with TILT, including multi-system symptoms (fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, digestive difficulties, and problems with memory and concentration) as well as new intolerances for everyday exposures that never bothered them before.

An article from the Huffington Post in March 2012 describes how doctors along the Gulf Coast are routinely treating clean-up workers and residents for chemical exposure and other problems that they blame on the spill. The article includes statements from a physician who uses the QEESI diagnostic questionnaire, Michael Robichaux, an otolaryngologist in Raceland, La., outside New Orleans.

Dr. Robichaux said he has treated 50 people for a range of health problems that he believes were caused by exposure to chemicals from the spill. “The illnesses are very real, and the people who are ill are apparently people who have sensitivities to these substances that not all of us are sensitive to,” he told the Huffington Post.

Patients suffering exposure symptoms may feel dizzy or nauseated around engine exhaust, cleaning chemicals, fragrances, or ill after meals, eating certain foods or even drinking one beer or glass of wine. These new intolerances are the hallmark symptom of a disease process called “TILT,” or “Toxicant-induced Loss of Tolerance.” We know that even so-called “safe” levels of exposure to toxic petroleum-based chemicals like those in the Gulf can initiate TILT. Once TILT develops, it is very difficult to treat, but TILT can be prevented.

To find out whether you may be susceptible to TILT or to track your symptoms, take the QEESI — a validated and published questionnaire I developed. You can download the QEESI at no charge under the “Publications & Presentations” tab.

Groundbreaking National Academy of Sciences Workshop on Individual Susceptibility

I presented April 18 at the National Academy of Sciences Workshop “Biological Factors that Underlie Individual Susceptibility to Environmental Stressors and Their Implications for Decision-Making.”

The proceedings are available by recorded webcast so you can view and listen to the speakers. View the webcast at:

http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/nrc/120418/
(Supply your email adress to log in.)

The title of my presentation was “Human Variability in Chemical Susceptibility (Intolerance/Sensitivity): Research Findings to Date and Their Implications for Future Study Design.” I’ve posted my presentation for your review.

I was asked to describe our findings from the QEESI, the Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory, and to discuss the use of EMUs, environmentally-controlled medical units, for research. Here is a synopsis:

“The QEESI is a validated research tool widely used to identify and characterize chemically intolerant individuals and groups. Results from these studies provide evidence for broad endogenous variability in susceptibility and point to the complex nature of susceptibility in humans, with susceptible persons generally reporting adverse responses to chemically diverse substances, including foods and drugs. Future investigations to assess human variability that is ‘endogenous or biological’ will benefit from the use of EMUs. Such studies will enable us to correlate symptoms and clinical measures (such as pulmonary function and EEG measures) with changes in the ‘-omics’ in real time at key points, i.e., when subjects enter the EMU, once they have achieved a clean baseline, and pre- and post- low level challenges.”

The QEESI is available free for download.

Details about the workshop are at:
http://nas-sites.org/emergingscience/workshops/individual-variability/