CHEMICAL INJURY INFORMATION
The Unacknowledged Suffering
In the article Prevalence of Chemical Injury, Fibromyalgia and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, we share the primary characteristics of each of these health conditions, as well as the prevalence data from Statistics Canada’s 2016 and 2020 Canadian Community Health Survey.
In the 2020 prevalence data, we learned than over 1,846,800 people, or over 4.9% of the population, had one or more of these acquired health conditions. In this article, we share the unacknowledged suffering and harsh reality in which the majority of people with CI, FM and ME live. The support systems, which are in place for other health conditions, are not available for these 1,846,800 people, resulting in many experiencing a lot of preventable pain, suffering and general hardship.
Are CI, FM And ME Different Aspects Of The Same Health Condition?
The name Chemical Injury has come from a growing understanding of this condition over many years. It has been known, and is known, as the 20th Century Disease, Chemical Allergies, Environmental Sensitivities, Environmental Hypersensitivities, Environmental Illness, Chemical Sensitivities, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), Toxin Induced Loss Of Tolerance (TILT), Chemical Intolerance and Chemical Injury. The name given often depends on the understanding of the doctor who is doing the diagnosis.
Chemical Injury is exactly that. It is injury caused by exposure to toxic chemicals. Chemical Injury can vary widely in the degree of severity, similar to physical injury. Physical Injury can vary from a small cut, to fractured bones, to multi-system trauma, and everything in-between. Likewise, Chemical Injury can vary from a headache, to painful muscles and joints, to multi-system effects, and everything in-between. The person might be still able to work or might be disabled. The disabled person might have an invisible disability (not obvious) or an obvious disability requiring a walker or a wheelchair or the person might be completely bedridden. As a result of the body being injured by toxic chemicals, the body becomes intolerant to further exposures of various toxic chemicals, and will experience toxic reactions whenever those exposures occur. Please see the article: Toxic Reaction - The Body's Alarm System.
Fibromyalgia (FM) is pain in the muscles and fibrous tissue. It is more recognized and accepted than the other two diagnoses. Sometimes a rheumatologist detects and diagnoses FM as he/she is ruling out rheumatic diseases. However, FM is not just pain all over the body, but it also includes times of extreme fatigue and cognitive difficulties (brain fog).
In North America, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is regularly called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). In Europe and some other countries, it is called by the more accurate name of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Once again, the name given often depends on the understanding of the doctor who is doing the diagnosis. However, the name Chronic Fatigue Syndrome tends to minimize the seriousness of this health condition. It is so much more than just fatigue. The cognitive ability is negatively impacted (severe brain fog); there can be dizziness upon movement, digestive problems and so much more. The body feels like lead and the effort it takes for movement is exhausting. One can sleep deeply for 12 to 18 hours and wake up feeling unrefreshed and like one still hasn’t even gone to bed yet. The person sometimes becomes completely bed ridden.
In Canada and other countries, in the early 1980s and up to the current time, both ME and FM are sometimes diagnosed as symptoms of Chemical Injury. They are viewed as severe toxic reactions to toxic chemical exposures. Many chemically injured individuals experience ME and FM symptoms but don't view them as separate health conditions.
There is no uniform distinction between the symptoms of these three conditions - where one ends and another begins - that is agreed upon by all health care professionals. All three conditions are acquired health conditions that can occur quite suddenly or very gradually. They all are characterized by pain, cognitive difficulties (brain fog), fatigue and sometimes unrefreshing sleep. Both CI and ME patients can experience post-exertional malaise in which there is a worsening of symptoms upon even minimal exertion, and both can have many different systems of their body negatively affected.
The doctors, who treat these health conditions, differ from each other on their views of the distinct features of each one and the causes of each one, and the patients often parrot their doctor’s perspective. If a patient has a doctor that views these three conditions as separate individual conditions, then the patient will also view them as separate individual conditions. However, if the doctor views them as different aspects of the same condition, then the patient will also view them as different aspects of the same condition.
For example, some people with CI might experience ME and FM as severe toxic reactions to potent toxic chemicals, and just consider them as symptoms of their Chemical Injury. To them, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Fibromyalgia are just terms identifying the type of their toxic reaction. They consider ME and FM as part of their Chemical Injury, not separate from it. Consequently, they believe that they have only one health condition called Chemical Injury.
However, some people with ME might be negatively affected by the toxic chemicals that make up scented products, but they will insist that they only have ME and that their chemical intolerance to the scented product is just part of their ME. This is also sometimes the case with FM. Part of this is due to the large amount of stigma associated with Chemical Injury.
There is much confusion surrounding the causes of ME and FM. Some of the people with ME and FM have a distinct association of the onset of their symptoms with an infection of some kind (viral, bacterial or fungal); some never had an infection, but have a distinct association of the onset of their symptoms with a potent toxic chemical exposure, and some have no idea what caused their symptoms, except they know that they did not have an infection.
Much of the medical research focus has been on trying to discover the connection between the infection and ME and/or FM. However, these doctors and researchers are overlooking the fact that many people with ME and FM never had an infection, but almost everyone has daily toxic chemical exposures.
If two groups of people have the same diagnosis of ME or FM, and one group had an infection and the other group never had that infection, then one needs to study the common factor in both groups - toxic chemical exposures. With infections, the body is weakened and is less able to tolerate exposures to toxic chemicals. Yet that is also the time when there is usually an increase usage of, and exposure to, disinfectants and strong cleansers. The infection might simply have been the instrument to cause the person to cross their body's toxic threshold. (Please see the article: Crossing The Toxic Threshold)
As stated in the article Chemical Injury – Going Where The Evidence Leads, the symptoms the person experiences are the same as what the laboratory test animals experience upon exposures to toxic chemicals. People who are “chemically injured” are the human equivalent of “chemically injured” test animals; and “severely chemically injured people” are the human equivalent of “severely poisoned animals” or “severely chemically injured animals”.
If the manufacturer of the product that made the person ill, discloses the toxic chemical ingredients and its inherent toxic characteristics, then frequently the chemically injured person’s symptoms will be the same as what was experienced by the test animals in the laboratory. The symptoms experienced by chemically injured humans are the same symptoms experienced by the chemically injured test animals in the laboratory, which reflect the inherent characteristics of the chemicals that did the injuring. Unfortunately, the manufacturer of the products that made the person ill, rarely discloses the toxic chemical ingredients and its inherent toxic characteristics. Consequently, the person and their doctors do not know that the symptoms match the experience of the test animals in the laboratory
Also, the chemically injured person, who becomes further exposed to toxic chemicals, will often have more severe toxic reactions, which will often include neurological symptoms. By taking the existing toxicological information regarding laboratory “chemically injured” test animals and applying it to understand the “chemically injured” person, this health condition is is much better understood, and the symptoms are no longer a baffling puzzle.
The key difference between the laboratory test animals and humans is the fact that the test animals are highly monitored regarding: 1) their toxic chemical exposures, 2) the dosage the animals receive, and 3) the corresponding symptoms they experience.
In stark contrast, in the real world and in real life, humans are exposed to a wide range of toxic chemicals – a poison mixture – every day of their lives from the day they are born till the day that they die. The complete spectrum of the poison mixture is impossible to identify, and it is different for each person. There is no monitoring regarding: 1) humans’ toxic chemical exposures, 2) the dosage that humans receive, and 3) the corresponding symptoms they experience.
Many chemically injured individuals don't even know how their bodies became so poisoned. That information is not always available nor is it easy to discover. After all, who knows or records all the toxic chemicals to which one is exposed through out the course of one day, one week, one month or one year.
More Prevalent Than Reported
The number of people with CI, FM and ME is probably much higher than reported. There are a few reasons for this. First we need to acknowledge that Chemical Injury is highly stigmatized. The chemical industry has done an excellent job of creating a huge amount of stigma attached to: 1) this diagnosis, 2) any patient with this diagnosis, 3) any doctor or medical researcher who takes this diagnosis seriously, and 4) any government official or any other person who takes this health condition seriously. This stigma hinders the chemically injured from receiving the support they desperately need from the health care systems, governments, family and society. It also hinders solid medical research into diagnostic testing, effective treatments and so on.
Although the chemical industry succeeded in creating a huge stigma, the stigma did not prevent more and more people from becoming chemically injured by their products. However, this stigma did succeed in preventing these very ill individuals from receiving the medical care that they need.
Due to the successful stigma campaign by the chemical industry, many doctors don’t believe these health conditions are real. This is especially true for CI and ME. These doctors tend to believe the patients are full of anxiety and are exaggerating their symptoms. They frequently will prescribe some sort of medication to control their anxiety and/or will send them for psychiatric care.
Then, out of the doctors who do acknowledge the validity of these health conditions, the vast majority of them don’t know how to recognize and diagnose these health conditions. This results in the vast majority of patients seeing many different doctors and specialists, and receiving many incorrect diagnoses and treatments, before they are correctly diagnosed. This experience happens most frequently with people having CI and ME. It happens less frequently with people having only FM, because it is more easily recognized and diagnosed than the other two.
Next we need to acknowledge that, with the exception of a few doctor’s offices, there are only three places in all of Canada that a person can be diagnosed with CI and/or ME in order for provincial governments to provide disability pensions to these individuals. The three places are located in: Fall River Nova Scotia, Toronto Ontario and Vancouver BC. If the person lives in any other province or in other locations in those provinces, the person is expected to travel those long distances to these clinics. However, many people become far too ill and lack the necessary energy and strength to be able to safely make those long distant trips. These unfortunate individuals rarely get properly diagnosed and typically go from doctor to doctor trying to find effective medical help.
Additionally, a person needs to be referred to the clinics by their primary doctor or a health care professional. Since many doctors don’t believe in the legitimacy of these diagnosis, many doctors don’t want to refer the patient to the clinics. Also, there are very long wait lists at each of these clinics. It fluctuates, but the wait time for an appointment averages between one to three years. Once the patient gets to the clinic, they are diagnosed and given a treatment plan, and then sent back to their referring doctor. It is the referring doctor’s responsibility to help guide the patient with the implementation of the treatment plan. However, most doctors either don’t know how to guide and implement the treatment plan, or don’t want to do so. Consequently, the patients frequently can’t implement the full treatment plan and are left on their own to figure it out for themselves.
Thankfully, Dr. Gunnar Heuser, who is a neurotoxicologist and an immunotoxicologist, developed a Diagnostic Protocol for Chemical Injury. He developed this diagnostic protocol for the specific purpose of assisting doctors and other health professionals, who are unfamiliar with this health condition, with the diagnostic challenge. Here is the link to it: https://emfdoc.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/EMFDoc.Chemical.Injury.web_.pdf
Disabled And Falling Through The Cracks Of Our Support Systems
The prevalence data informed us that in 2020 there were 1,130,800 people in Canada living with Chemical Injury. Many people with Chemical Injury become disabled. As the disability progresses, some have mobility issues requiring a walker or wheelchair, some require daily living assistance and some are bedridden requiring total around the clock care.
To put this in perspective, there were double the number of people with Chemical Injury compared to those with Alzheimer’s. (According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, 597,000 people in Canada were living with dementia in 2020.) Yet Alzheimer’s is accommodated in our health systems and support systems, but Chemical Injury is not. It is not accommodated in any aspect of our health systems (hospitals, home care or long-term care homes). Nor is it accommodated in any of the programs for the disabled, in our housing, or in society in general. The Chemically Injured fall through the cracks of every one of our support systems.
Those who become disabled become more and more dependant on family and friends to take care of them – to buy their groceries and to meet their daily living needs. These caregivers have no government-funded support and rarely have any community support. Consequently, they become exhausted and their own health becomes negatively affected.
However, there are also many disabled chemically injured individuals who have no support of any kind - no health care support plus no family or friend support. These ones either have to figure out how to have their needs met on their own, or they will die a very painful death all alone.
Since no level of government has provided for the medical and housing needs of the Chemically Injured, some have lost hope of having their needs met. They just see endless pain and suffering year after year. In Canada, the federal government has legislatively allowed Medical Assistance In Dying (MAiD) for the disabled, and therefore some Chemically Injured individuals are turning to MAiD to end their suffering. These ones have stated that they don’t want to die. They want to live with their basic needs met and their suffering reduced. However, these ones say that if that can’t happen, they want their suffering ended in the only way the government has provided: MAiD. These ones are both applying for MAiD and being accepted for MAiD.
This is so incredibly sad! Where has the human compassion gone in Canada? As a society, we need to do better than this. We could begin by meeting their most basic need, which is a safe low-toxicity home. They need a place where their health has an opportunity to recover. (I’ll share a bit more of their needs below.)
Many doctors and other health care professionals state they don’t believe in the legitimacy of the Chemical Injury diagnosis because “there is no credible research about it”. However, there has definitely been some credible research done on it, howbeit a very small amount. Some notable medical researchers are: Dr. Gunnar Heuser, a neurotoxicologist and an immunotoxicologist and Dr William Meggs, a medical toxicologist and emergency doctor.
The lack of medical research for a certain health condition does not mean the health condition does not exist. It simply means no one is spending the time and money to research the condition. Sadly, this can be traced back to the large amount of stigma that is directed towards anyone who wants to research Chemical Injury. Lack of research does not imply illegitimacy.
When one considers medical research, it is very sobering to consider that the Canadian federal government has just allocated $50 million over five years to be spent researching Alzheimer’s, a health condition affecting half the number of people with Chemical Injury. However, to our knowledge, no money is being spent by the federal government to research Chemical Injury.
CI, FM and ME need to be viewed and studied through the lens of clinical toxicology to be fully understood.
As an example, let’s take the pesticide Agent Orange. It contains the toxic chemicals 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T) and 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). It was widely used in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s in rural Ontario along the road sides, railway sides, hydro power line corridors and forestry.
Here are some excerpts of its toxicology information from the Ontario government’s Report of the Independent Fact-Finding Panel on Herbicide 2,4,5-T. Here is the link: https://www.ontario.ca/page/report-independent-fact-finding-panel-herbicide-245-t#:~:text=The%20panel%20concluded%20that%20due,5-T%20and%20its%20contaminants.
On page 36, under the heading 3.7.1. Metabolism, it states:
The body’s ability to absorb, metabolize, and excrete a chemical is an important factor in determining toxicity. Both 2,4,5-T and TCDD are readily absorbed into the bloodstream following oral and inhalation exposure, while skin absorption is much lower. However, 2,4,5-T is water-soluble and readily excreted from the body, while TCDD is fat-soluble, poorly metabolized, and excreted slowly. The fact that 2,4,5-T clears rapidly from the body greatly reduces the likelihood of chronic toxicity, while TCDD can accumulate in body tissues when intake exceeds excretion. Thus, it is possible to achieve toxic levels of TCDD over time due to chronic low-level exposure.
Once absorbed, TCDD associates primarily with the lipoprotein fraction of blood and later moves into tissues throughout the body. The liver and fatty tissues are the primary storage sites.
On page 35, under the heading 3.7 Experimental Animal Studies, it states:
Human health concerns emerging from experiments using laboratory animals include reproductive and endocrine dysfunction, suppression of immune responses, neurological effects, cardiovascular effects, and cancer.
On page 42, under the heading Immunotoxicity, it states:
Many studies provide evidence of TCDD’s immunotoxicity (IOM 2012). In mice, a single TCDD dose in the low μg/kg range suppressed both antibody- and T-cell-mediated immune responses to many antigens. TCDD exposure also increased the mortality rate and/or severity of symptoms in mice or rats infected with bacterial and viral agents, including salmonella, listeria, influenza, and herpes Type 2.
On page 36, under the heading 3.7.2. Acute toxicity, it states:
Death from acute poisoning has been attributed to mitochondrial toxicity and the uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation, a vital process that cells use to generate energy.
On page 37, under the heading, 3.7.3. Organ-specific chronic toxicity, it states:
Repeatedly exposing laboratory animals to TCDD at doses below those causing acute toxicity (e.g., body weight loss) has been shown to adversely affect many tissues and organs in the body, including the liver, heart, and skin, as well as the immune, endocrine, and reproductive systems.
This is just an example of how exposure, and especially repeated exposures, to this one pesticide product can negatively impact a person's energy level, ability to fight infections, and the proper functioning of the organs and body's systems. However, there are thousands of pesticide (biocide) products in regular usage that have similar inherent characteristics, and many people have multiple exposures to a wide variety of them. Almost all pesticide products negatively impact the nervous system plus other organ systems.
Then, in addition to potential pesticide exposures, people are exposed to a wide variety of toxic chemicals that make up cleansers, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, personal care products, laundry products, housing building materials, carpets, fire retardants, traffic fumes, fresh asphalt and so on. Most people are exposed to these products through inhalation, and the majority of products have never undergone inhalation toxicological testing. Yet exposure through inhalation can negatively impact the brain, the entire nervous system, plus other organ systems. Please see the article The Nose-Brain Connection.
The continuous bombardment of toxic chemical exposure can completely overwhelm the body’s ability to metabolize and eliminate the various toxic chemicals. When this happens, the person can cross their body’s toxic threshold and become chemically injured.
Consequently, we urgently need solid medical research into CI, ME and FM in order to understand precisely what is happening in the body at the early stages. This will increase the possibility of early detection and prevention. We also need better treatments that will assist in the healing times of those impacted by these life-altering health conditions.
Effective medical treatments come from considering it through the lens of clinical toxicology. The first step in all clinical toxicological situations is avoidance. The patient needs to avoid further exposure to the poisons, in this case toxic chemicals. Therefore, the patient will need to live a low-toxicity lifestyle in a low-toxicity home, which is in a low-toxicity locality. This will provide their body with an opportunity to begin healing. Please read the article: What is A Low-Toxicity Home?
Next the body will naturally begin to process, metabolize and eliminate the toxic chemicals that are stored in the tissues and organs of the body. Sometimes the person will require medical assistance to accomplish this, depending on how injured the person’s body has been. For example, if the liver has stopped producing glutathione, an enzyme the body uses to metabolize toxic chemicals, then the patient may require intravenous glutathione.
Depending on how injured the person’s body has been, the person will probably require nutritional supplementation to assist the body in its healing process. This healing process could take months, but it often takes years and sometimes decades to accomplish. It requires a complete change of lifestyle, as the person must continue to avoid toxic chemical exposures as much as possible to prevent the body from having set-backs in its recovery.
However, currently there are no low-toxicity homes available for those who need them. Therefore the Chemically Injured are not able to avoid further exposures to the toxic chemicals that keep injuring their bodies. This leaves them in a continuous cycle of painful and debilitating toxic reactions, with very little hope of recovery.
To prevent this suffering, we need to provide the chemically injured with the opportunity for recovery of health by providing them with low-toxicity homes in low-toxicity localities and providing them with the medical care that they need. Please see the article: Housing And Medical Needs Of The Chemically Injured.
This is a very hard and difficult road for people to walk, and they require all the support that the governments, the health system, family, friends, and community can provide for them.