Health Issues from Mold Exposure · MCS · Symptoms · TILT

Extreme Chemical Sensitivity Makes Sufferers Allergic to Life

I wanted to share this article since some people who have been affected by mold/mycotoxins later develop extreme sensitivities to chemicals. These sensitivities if severe, dramatically affect the patient’s quality of life and although the patient knows the symptoms are real, people may dismiss their sensitivities as craziness.

Souce: Discover Magazine
Written By: Jill Neimark

Its sufferers were once dismissed as hypochondriacs, but there’s growing biological evidence to explain toxicant-induced loss of tolerance (TILT).

One night in August 2005, Scott Killingsworth, a 35-year-old software designer in Atlanta, dragged his dining-room table out to the porch and lay down on it. The house he’d just rented — on 2 acres in an upscale suburb north of the city — was meant to be relatively free of man-made chemicals, his refuge from the world. For years he had been experiencing debilitating reactions to a cornucopia of common chemicals that others don’t even notice.

But this house, like the one before it, was making him sick with flulike symptoms — nausea, headaches and muscle stiffness.

Lying on the table and breathing in fresh air, Killingsworth thought back to the morning seven years ago when his office was sprayed with Dursban, a potent organophosphate pesticide that has been banned for indoor use since 2000. Within minutes of the pesticide treatment, he was unable to concentrate, and he felt like he had a bad flu. When he returned to the office a week later, he felt sick again. He asked his supervisor to move him to a different office.

“I thought that was the end of it,” he recalls. “But that was the beginning of it.”

Instead of recovering, he got sicker as each year passed. Newly renovated buildings, fresh paint, gasoline odors, pesticides, herbicides — the list of substances he reacted to grew longer and longer. After his apartment was painted by mistake one day while he was at work, he got so ill that he took a leave of absence and moved.

But each subsequent home left him with the familiar panoply of headaches, flulike symptoms, insomnia, the inability to concentrate and fatigue. After sleeping on his dining table for a week, he bought a camping cot and slept on it each night for years. When he became reactive to the almost imperceptible outgassing of chemicals from his own computer, he switched to a Bluetooth keyboard and looked at his computer monitor through the porch window.

Before he got ill, Killingsworth had a girlfriend and an active social life. As his unusual illness escalated, he began to live like a hermit. During his final two years in Georgia, he had fewer than 10 visitors, he says.

Finally, in fall 2007, nine years after his run-in with Dursban, Killingsworth applied for Social Security disability, packed his belongings, and drove west in his Honda Civic to search for housing among a community of folks like himself — all suffering from what is loosely called “environmental illness” — in the remote high desert of Arizona.

Today, in his 40s, he lives in a renovated travel trailer specially designed for his sensitivities: It has porcelain tile floors, sealed walls and sealed wood cabinetry. He camps alone and with friends. He relies on solar power, hauls his own water at times and moves seasonally to avoid extremes of heat and cold. Most days, however, he can tolerate the trailer only for a while, even with windows open, and sleeps on a cot in the back of his truck, under the protective camper shell.

A Two-Step Process

If anybody can understand what happened to Killingsworth, it is physician Claudia Miller, an environmental health expert at the University of Texas School of Medicine in San Antonio, who studies a phenomenon she calls toxicant-induced loss of tolerance (TILT). The word toxicant refers to a man-made poison, such as Dursban, whereas a toxin is a naturally occurring poison produced by living cells or organisms, such as spider venom.

TILT, says Miller, is a two-step process: First, a susceptible individual gets sick after toxic exposure or exposures. But then, instead of recovering, the neurological and immune systems remain damaged, and the individual fails to get well. The sufferer begins to lose tolerance to a wide range of chemicals common in everyday life.

The latest research, both in the United States and abroad, suggests that brain processing itself is altered so that the neurological setpoint for sensitivity falls. The person, now sick, becomes highly sensitive to chemical exposures. The individual is like a fireplace after the original fire has died down: The embers still glow a brilliant orange, ready to burst into flame with the slightest assistance.

Individuals with TILT can become increasingly more reactive over time, until they find themselves responding adversely to the mere whiff or dollop of everyday chemicals — at concentrations far below established toxicity. The triggering substances are often structurally unrelated and range from airborne molecules to ordinary drugs and supplements, lotions, detergents, soaps, newsprint and once-cherished foods like chocolate, pizza or beer.

Exposures result in a bewildering variety of symptoms such as cardiac and neurological abnormalities, headaches, bladder disturbances, asthma, depression, anxiety, gut problems, impaired cognitive ability and sleep disorders.

Because so many substances seem to spike these overlapping reactions, and because not everybody is universally reactive to exactly the same substances, it’s hard to ferret out cause and effect. And that has, until recently, left these individuals consulting many different specialists, presenting a picture that looks deeply neurotic.

When chemically intolerant patients first came to the attention of the medical profession in the 1980s, their condition was called “multiple chemical sensitivity” (MCS), and there was enough curiosity to spark studies. But those studies never turned up anything definitive, and nobody thought to look at the actual processing going on in the brain.

They would test patients by exposing them to odors in a “blinded” situation, where they did not know what they were being exposed to, or they were told harmful odors were present when there were no odors at all. The patients often failed to demonstrate any consistent response.

Studies on detoxification pathways — the immune mechanisms by which the body dismantles toxins — were few and far between; research never explained how certain exposures could snowball into the profound dysfunction reported by this hobbled patient group. Immunological abnormalities were investigated, but not one was ever consistently tied to the condition overall.

So for decades, these patients were cast aside as mentally ill. If you see a person wearing a honeycomb mask in the detergent aisle of the supermarket, if they tell you that the fabric softener scent you love is making them ill, if they say your perfume is causing headaches and asthma and that the carpet store causes brain fog, irritability and depression, your reflexive response may just be, “You may be sick, but you are probably sick in the head.”

Read the rest of this article by clicking here. 

 

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