Reality Check: Is My New House Making Me Sick?
Looking down at my crazy swollen ankles at a stoplight I gripped my steering wheel with knuckles that had so much fluid they had lost their shape. I clearly remember wincing as a traveling pain coursed throughout my body. I knew something was very wrong. My blood labs showed a possibility of lupus, but the markers weren't definitive. I had just moved into a brand new house - my first one as young newly wed after living in an apartment for a year. At the time I never even considered my new house as the trigger of my awful reactions. But many years later while taking a course in environmental toxicity, I realized that the only variable in my life during my health struggle was my new house. We had mostly carpet with a stain removal coating in the house in order to save money. In addition, much of our furniture was new and we rarely opened our windows to air out the house. My asthma kicked up during that time along with all of the other miserable symptoms. Fortunately, just a few months following my unexplained health issues, we moved to an older home in a new town after my husband was transferred. This resolved all of my swelling and pain and my asthmatic reactions improved. Older homes may have mold so getting them checked for mold before moving in is extremely important.
A School Triggering A Chronic Illness
Fast forward twenty-four years later and this time it was my son who was impacted by an environmental biotoxin. He was not healing up from bad congestion, a cough, watery eyes and headaches. The ironic thing was that his symptoms cleared when he was home from school on the weekend and Thanksgiving. He finally told me one day that his classroom was making him sick and he had a hard time breathing upon entering the room. The building inspections crew discovered a crack in the exterior wall, a broken damper (what brings in fresh air from the outside) and the teacher regularly cleaned mold with bleach that was growing on the wall and in the crack. Even after repair to the classroom his illness persisted. Once our son transferred schools thanks to a doctor who understood environmental biotoxins, his health challenges vanished.
It is quite uncommon for someone to link their allergies and other health challenges with their environment. This is probably due to the fact that many times the inflammatory response may not be connected to one's surroundings. Yet physicians and health practitioners are now discovering that things like headaches, sinus issues, congestion, skin rashes, respiratory conditions, anxiety, exhaustion and arthritis may be triggered by the environment. Sometimes dietary changes magically make these miserable signs and symptoms vanish. Lifestyle changes, supplements, medications and other things may end a chronic condition. Other times no matter what we do, the health challenges keep returning. Chronic conditions that don't go away even with significant lifestyle changes may be linked to the environment.
Biotoxin Illness Can Be Difficult to Diagnose
Our society seeks to continually improve upon agricultural methods, speed up communication networks, combat disease and make other extraordinary technological advances. Microorganisms, in an attempt to adapt to this change, are forced to modify. When this happens our bodies have to adjust and combat unique new forms of bacteria, fungi and viruses. In addition new chemicals are released into the environment that may impact our health. Over the past fifty years, global chemical production has increased by over fifty fold. Researchers have discovered over 300 substances in human blood samples and breast milk. Many of these man made chemicals have been linked to placing an unhealthy burden on the endocrine and nervous system.
Some Toxins To Watch Out For
Whether it's an off gas from a chemical like formaldehyde on your hardwood floors, pesticide on your tomato, an additive to your shampoo, or an herbicide used on your favorite golf course, the chronic load of all of these may contribute to your body's ability to respond to foreign antigens. Many toxins that have been banned are still present in our soil, air and water. For example, PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyls) were banned in 1976, yet the 3.4 billion pounds produced globally maintain some level of existence today. BPA is typically found in type 3 & 7 plastics and is an endocrine disruptor. Heavy metals like mercury and lead are highly toxic to the developing brain and nervous system. Pthalates which are esters used in plastics like vinyl in shower curtains, toys, upholstry and even the dissolvable coating on medications are endocrine disruptors and have been linked to birth defects in males. An unseen toxin that many times is not discovered until many years after exposure is mold. The microscopic spores release mycotoxins that can lead to respiratory issues and neurotoxicity. So much can be written on toxins in the environment and this topic will be covered in depth in a future blog.
Getting to the Root Cause of Biotoxin Illness
Diagnosis begins with questions related to the patient's signs and symptoms and if there seems to be a connection to their environment. A series of diagnostic blood and urine tests are readily available by commercial labs such as LabCorp, Quest, Great Plains and Genova. There is even an eye test called a visual contrast sensitivity test that can determine possible mold exposure. Your physician will determine what tests to order. The results of these tests and answers to what triggers the symptomatic response if known will guide the treatment.
The EPA develops methods based on a scientific approach to help create safer chemicals and regulate harmful substances. The EPA offers information regarding specific chemicals and how you can protect yourself, your family and others.
REACH is similar to the EPA, however it is a European regulatory group focused more on earlier identification of the intrinsic properties of chemical substances and the dangers they may pose to human health. REACH is the acronym for: registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals. This regulatory body requires progressive substitution of the most dangerous chemicals when suitable alternatives have been identified.