Toxic causes of CFS - the more I ask, the more I find!

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Toxic causes of CFS: Organophosphate Poisoning, Silicone, Carbon Monoxide, Mercury and Others?
See Category:Toxic Problems: Pollution and Poisonings for full details and links.

Recognising The Problem and Typical Symptoms

When I first started treating patients with CFS, the cause was either viral or "I don't know". I now realise that many of the "I don't knows" were cases of poisoning either to organophosphates, silicone, carbon monoxide, sick building syndrome (formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds etc) and so on. Furthermore I now suspect that many of those patients with post viral CFS actually were poisoned by some chemical which weakened the immune system so that it was unable to cope adequately with a subsequent viral infection. The sort of problems I have seen in CFS include the following:

  • sheep dipping,
  • spraying agricultural chemicals,
  • being sprayed by tractor or helicopter and spray drift,
  • working in a chicken farm (fumigation, control of parasites),
  • working in factory farmed salmon in Scotland (where chemicals are used to control fish lice),
  • repeated head lice treatments,
  • house fumigations for flea control or bed bugs,
  • handling flowers (many are imported from overseas and are heavily sprayed)
  • insect control in hot countries with DDT, OPs etc,
  • control of sand flies (Gulf War Syndrome),
  • greenhouse fumigations,
  • working in a research plant centre where chemicals were used every week to prevent cross contamination,
  • 'A' level student doing a biology project with pesticides,
  • carpet factory where fleeces are washed after sheep have been dipped,
  • lorry driver delivering OPs to farmers,
  • Government Inspectors in sheep markets,
  • dairy farmers exposed to OPs on a daily basis for fly control in the milking parlour,
  • poisoning through exposure to dumped cans of sheep dip,
  • welders working in a factory which was manufacturing OPs, timber
  • treatments in houses,
  • treatment of external parasites in dogs, cats, cows (OP pour ons) and so on.

There are many other occupations where people are exposed to chemicals, but incidents are often forgotten.

Silicone as a trigger for CFS

With silicone I am not just looking for the obvious breast implant or silicone injections, but many other prostheses have biologically active materials. Examples include:

  • testicular implants,
  • lens implants,
  • Norplant contraceptive device (silicone rods),
  • TMJ work,
  • facial contouring,
  • meshes for hernia repairs etc.

In the veterinary world, reactions to suture materials are well documented - not so in the medical world.

Burnt Organic compounds

This often goes into the category of carbon monoxide poisoning but actually it is the burnt organic compounds which cause the long term damage. Think of

  • Aerotoxic syndrome - poisoning caused by fumes - affects pilots, cabin crew and passengers!
  • old central heating,
  • condensation suggesting blocked chimneys,
  • free standing gas fires which do not vent to the outside

Volatile organic compounds

  • building projects,
  • poultry and egg rearing (formaldehyde)
  • manufacturing industry,
  • paints,
  • new carpets,
  • printing industry,
  • photographic industry
  • "sick building syndrome" and so on.

Other problems from chemical poisoning

These toxic patients present with a chronic fatigue syndrome and it is largely this which prevents them from working. However these chemicals are extremely toxic to other parts of the body and may also cause:

  • Damage to nerves - Central nervous system (psychological problems, psychiatric disorders, sleep, brain fog etc) autonomic nervous system (sweating, temperature control, hyperventilation, etc) and peripheral nervous system (numbness, tingling etc).
  • Damage to bones - osteoporosis, abnormal bone biopsies, abnormal bone metabolism.
  • Damage to the immune system - allergies, autoimmune disorders and multiple chemical sensitivity (and of course CFS). Tests often show immune damage.
  • Damage to the heart - particularly the electrical conduction system producing arrhythmias
  • Damage to the endocrine system - abnormalities of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, thyroid damage, sex hormones
  • Probable damage to the liver

These chemicals are also carcinogenic, teratogenic (damage to the unborn baby), and damage sperm causing low sperm counts and infertility.

Further information from Pesticide Action Network UK.

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