Environmental Illness

Sraddha Helfrich
University Of Minnesota Medical Student

What do carpets, meat, paint, household cleaners, perfumes, cigarette smoke, building materials, milk and traffic fumes have in common? They all contain toxic compounds that could be making you and your family sick. Environmental Illness (EI) is a term for diseases caused by the human-made environment in which we live. Examples of diseases that can have environmental influences are asthma, allergy (headaches, sneezing, migraines, acne, sinus pain), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chemical sensitivity, electromagnetic sensitivity, other sensitivities (sound, sunlight), autoimmune diseases (lupus) and premature aging. Other diseases may also be considered environmentally induced, including Parkinson Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, joint deterioration and gastrointestinal illness.

According to the American Environmental Health Foundation (AEHF), “there are many chemicals, toxins and microorganisms in the outside air that effect our homes, our food, and water supplies.” This has major ramifications on our health. Erin Brokovich created much publicity for water contamination issues and, more recently, household mold toxin contamination problems. The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum, creates the most pollution. The use of chemical-based materials and products in manufacturing, mining, construction and our homes, the extensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and emission of methane gas from factory farming also exacerbates pollution.

Sadly, the public water system is a major source of synthetic toxins. Dr. William J. Rea, a leader in the field of environmental medicine, points out that our “public water system increases our exposure to toxins from 1,000 to 10,000 times” and “public water systems are rated safe only by bacterial content.” So while our water system might be free of bacteria that make us sick, we are drinking a solution that is “now as polluted with chemicals as it was with bacteria 50 years ago before chlorination.” Rea also notes “recent Environmental Protection Agency studies of the 83 largest cities show all of the water supplies to be severely chemically contaminated. 94% of the commercial food has pesticides in it, and it is estimated that the average individual ingests one gallon of food additives per year.” The air in cities like Minneapolis-St. Paul is also polluted enough to result in environmental illness.

The most polluted space is the average home, which contains pollutants due to poor air circulation. Homes are full of high outgassing synthetics such as polyester, foam and rubber in beds and chairs. Gas heat further makes “home” a toxic environment. The summation of these factors plus polluted work and outdoor environments leads to a heavy “body load” – a term used to describe the sum of all incitants that the body has to handle in order to function. This includes pollution in our air, water and food.

AEHF sources state that “when our immune system is overburdened, our body reacts with many different kinds of symptoms in order to communicate to us that we need to change” our environment and our lifestyle. Common symptoms are head, neck, shoulder, back, stomach and joint aches. In addition, tearing sneezing, coughing, more serious respiratory problems and weakness in the legs can be experienced. Disorientation, inability to concentrate, hyper and aggressive behavior and/or depression can be exhibited.

In the last decade, there has been a dramatic increase in patients with the above diseases. Children are the most susceptible to these illnesses because smaller amounts of environmental pollutants are all that it takes to make them sick. As we continue to expose ourselves to even higher levels of pollution (fragrances, toxic carpets, pesticides, traffic fumes, etc), the number of people with these illnesses can be expected to rise too.

There are several ways to determine if you have an EI. Your history of symptoms when exposed to chemicals is a major indicator of your status. Some signs might be if you frequently get symptoms in your respiratory system, gastrointestinal system or muscular system after you are exposed to certain materials or if you sneeze after putting on your makeup. You can ask your doctor to conduct an allergy skin test for specific chemical allergies, a booth test (controlled chemical exposure), and a blood test to determine levels of chemical contaminants and their metabolites, levels of antibodies to specific chemicals and levels of detoxifying enzymes that represent liver and kidney function.

EIs are treated by a variety of health providers, such as homeopaths, acupuncturists, environmental doctors, natural doctors and allergists. The health provider that specializes in treating EIs is the environmental doctor, who has either an M.D. or a D.O. degree. See: HEALTH: Doctors. They have received specialized training before becoming a member of the American Association of Environmental Medicine. Environmental medicine is a rather new field, and there are not many doctors practicing it yet. This field is not accepted by doctors who prefer to practice medicine by covering up the symptoms of chronic illnesses with drugs, rather than solving the underlying problem.

While drugs might be a faster and cheaper way to temporarily “deal” with EI, addressing the root of the problem requires more effort. If you do not address the underlying reasons for the problems you have, you will never get rid of the problems. They will manifest themselves in different ways over time. See the to do list to get you started.


By Leo Cashman, DAMS

DAMS educates the public about dental mercury and other toxic pitfalls in dentistry and how to recover from them. Where the dental establishment deceives the public, we provide the facts. Consumers be wary! There are a whole array of health pitfalls that the dental establishment doesn’t want us to know about: mercury, nickel, palladium, fluoride, toxic root canals and jawbone cavitations (dead gangrene-like areas in the jawbone). Mixed metals in the mouth create a battery affect, so when the currents flow, even more mercury is released from the amalgam fillings. Mercury can play a role in: depression, irritability, memory problems, allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivity, candida (yeast) problems, food allergies, multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s Disease and even cancer and heart disease. Learn the non-toxic options. You cannot truly detoxify your body until your mouth is toxin-free. Get the scientific and clinical findings you need on all the dental-health issues. Call for information packet before choosing a dentist to replace the toxic metals in your mouth or before making dental decisions.

To receive an information packet contact DAMS, Inc.
Call: 612-721-1144
Email: 163cshmn@mtn.org

What You Can Do

* Adopt a diversified balanced diet and take proper vitamins and minerals to alleviate nutritional deficiencies.

* Eat only organic fruits, vegetables and meats. Preferably, do not eat meats and focus on the high nutrient, low calorie food that vegetables and fruits provide. Vegetables and fruits will help your body to detoxify itself. Non-organic foods have pesticide residues and meats and milk – products contain dioxins and hormones that can promote cancer.

* Reduce your stress load. This will help strengthen your immune system.

* Use only bottled or filtered water for drinking, cooking and bathing.

* Use glass containers, not plastic, for storing foods, water and drinks.

* Use the American Environmental Health Foundation online store to find products that are less toxic than conventional brands to reduce your household exposure.

* Make a healthy indoor environment for yourself buy using electrostatic air filters, portable air filters and HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting) filtration.

* Do not smoke cigarettes or cigars and avoid cigarette/cigar smoke.

Read Up

Tired or Toxic?, Sherry Rogers, M.D.

The E.I. Syndrome, Sherry Rogers, M.D.

Chemical Injury Resource Guide, 612-647-0944 or sold at Valley Natural Foods Co-op

Act Locally
Chemical Injury Resource Association of Minnesota
3033 27th Ave. S.
P.O. Box 6085
Minneapolis, MN 651-647-0944

The Women’s Cancer Resource Cancer
4604 Chicago Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 612-822-4846

Environmental Illness

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