Thursday, April 26, 2007

Neurodevelopment & the Environment: Are Vaccines to Blame for Skyrocketing Childhood Illnesses?

Remarkable controversy exists on the safety and efficacy of vaccinations in the United States. Research supporting vaccine safety is scant yet crucial to the well being of every American citizen. Since 1980 the amount of vaccinations required for children began to rise quite dramatically. These vaccines contain various toxicants including thimerosal, a mercury (Hg) containing neurotoxicant, which may contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Environmental Illness (EI) which are all on the rise. According to the U.S. Census Bureau autism, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental disorders may affect as many as 1 in 6 children in the U.S. totaling over 12 million citizens (Ball, 2001). Many of these conditions developed or expanded around the time of increased vaccinations. Comparison of data on the increase of neurodevelopment disorders and the growth of synthetic chemical production show the data began to merge around 1970 (Colborn, 2004) much the same time the number of vaccines given to children began to increase. Both vaccines and increased chemicals in the environment warrant further investigation as possible causation of neurodevelopment disorders.

“Mercury in the thimerosal molecule is in the form of ethylmercury for which there is limited toxicologic information” (Clarkson, 2002). Thimerosal is the preservative commonly used in many vaccinations and given to children in amounts of ethylmercury that exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency safety level for adults (Burbacher et al, 2005). Thimerosal has been withdrawn from many pediatric vaccines since 1999 as a result of concerns over the neurodevelopmental toxicity of organic mercury although it is still used in influenza, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccinations (Goth et al, 2006). It is plausible that the withdrawal of thimerosal is indicative of its potential as a neurotoxicant. Children vaccinated before 1990 time may have received cumulative doses of mercury exceeding 200µg/kg and because thimerosal is organic mercury there is suspicion among scientists that it acts as methylmercury does in the brain though the two forms vary in the way they are distributed and eliminated from the brain (Spzir, 2006). Health risk estimates from thimerosal in vaccines originally assumed that ethylmercury is toxicologically similar to methylmercury (Ball et al, 2001). Studies have since found this to be misleading as methylmercury is distributed differently than methylmercury (Burbacher et al, 2005).

Reports indicating infants can be given ethylmercury in the form of thimerosal above the guidelines for safe exposure set by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency were challenged in an experiment (Burbacher et al, 2005) in which monkeys were exposed to methylmercury or thimerosal and tested at intervals to determine how long the mercury remained in the brains of the monkeys. Findings showed that methylmercury is not a proper reference for risk assessment from exposure to thimerosal-derived mercury as ethylmercury clears the brain faster than methylmercury (Burbacher et al, 2005). The deposition kinetics of the two forms of mercury varies greatly requiring further investigation into the safety and efficacy of ethylmercury from thimerosal as a vaccine preservative. “Although the initial distribution volume of total mercury is similar for the two groups, a biphasic exponential decline in total blood mercury is observed only after intramuscular injections of thimerosal. This suggests continual distribution into and localization in tissue sites over time” (Burbacher et al, 2005) where the mercury is stored and accumulated. More “knowledge of the toxicokinetics and developmental toxicity of thimerosal is needed to afford a meaningful assessment of the developmental effects of thimerosal-containing vaccines. We need knowledge of biotransformation of thimerosal to interpret the potential developmental effects of immunization with thimerosal-containing vaccines in infants. This information is critical if we are to respond to public concerns regarding the safely of childhood immunizations” (Burbacher et al, 2005).

Thimerosal also differs from methylmercury in that it causes kidney damage as well as damage to the nervous system at the same dose (Clarkson, 2002). In addition to disposition of mercury in the body a primary area of concern is the effects of mercury in the body and particularly the central nervous system. Clarkson (2002) emphasizes that the mature central nervous system is characterized by a latent period between mercury exposure and onset of symptoms of several weeks to months. Paresthesia, cerebellar ataxia, dysarthria, constriction of the visual fields, and loss of hearing are among the first symptoms of mercury toxicity often caused by loss of or damage to neuronal cells (Clarkson 2002). Damage by mercury also includes oxidative stress, lipid peroxidation, mitochondrial dysfunction, synaptic transmission disruption, microtubule formation, amino acid transport, and cellular migration, psychomotor retardation, seizures, mental retardation, and developmental delays (Schettler, 2001). There may conceivably be a correlation between the symptoms of mercury poisoning and the similar symptoms evident in neurodevelopment disorders. Clarkson (2002) ascertains “methylmercury is converted to inorganic mercury in the brain. It is possible that the inorganic ion is the proximate toxic agent responsible for the brain damage. However, experiments on rats comparing methyl and ethyl mercury compounds suggest that the intact methylmercury radical is the toxic agent. Ethylmercury converts to inorganic mercury more rapidly than methylmercury, but the latter products more serious brain damage. The toxicologic role of inorganic mercury remains a matter of debate.” What is clear is that safety of any mercury is highly questionable and requires further research before we continue to risk exposing children to thimerosal.

Effects of mercury on children show susceptibility for prenatal exposure to methylmercury as it passes though the placental barrier to the developing fetus from the mother (Bjornberg et al, 2005). Clarkson (2002) notes mothers with mild symptoms of mercury neurotoxicity often give birth to offspring with severe brain damage, delayed development, and other neurologic abnormalities. There is valid concern over the safety of the amount of additional mercury received in childhood vaccinations.

In the United States autism, once a rare condition (Goodman & Koduru, 2000), has increased from 4 – 5 per 10,000 children in the 1980’s to 30 – 60 per 10,000 children in the 1990’s, an increase of more than ten times, and the diagnosis of ADHD increased 250% between 1990 and 1998 (Szpir, 2006). The cause of these diseases is largely unknown at this time though some researchers are looking to phthalates, PCB’s, and other chemicals for which use has increased about the same time (Booker, 2001). A 2006 study concluded that there is a potential association between autism and estimated metal concentrations in the air (Windham et al, 2006). Another study postulates that thimerosal may be a potential triggering mechanism contributing to autism in susceptible individuals (Walker et al, 2006).

One of many studies examined and found correlation between sleep position and SIDS (Ostfeld et al, 2006) leaving unclear why a child would become vulnerable to a certain sleep position in recent years only when SIDS was unheard of before 1980. Another study suggests a strong link between metals in particulate air pollution and some forms of infant death (Glinianaia et al, 2004). Thimerosal being largely composed of the metal mercury is another likely culprit that requires additional research.

Also noteworthy is a study in which 33% of participants were found to be suffering from multiple chemical sensitivity, a form of EI (Meggs et al, 1996) that is caused by low molecular weight chemicals that bind to chemoreceptors on sensory nerve C-fibers leading to the release of inflammatory mediators (Meggs, 1999). With such a large percentage of the population suffering EI it is conceivable a common exposure such as thimerosal in vaccines could be the etiology behind turning on the CYP2D6 allele apparently responsible for genetically variable toxin pathways that may cause EI to surface (McKeown-Eyssen et al, 2004).

The effect of neurodevelopmental disorders reaches beyond the child to the parent, the social system, the work force, school curriculum, medical providers, care providers, the welfare system, and therefore affects the pocketbooks of every taxpaying citizen. Cumulative costs identified (Muir & Zegarac, 2001) for societal costs of exposure to toxic substances total between $568 billion and $793 billion dollars per year in Canada and the United States. Further at least 10% and as much as 50% of these costs are environmentally induced by toxicants (Muir & Zegarac, 2001). Neurodevelopment disorders cost the United States $81.5 to $167 billion annually and methylmercury induced toxicity alone is estimated to cost $8.7 billion dollars in lost productivity in the United States (Szpir, 2006). 67% of chemicals imported into the United States have not been examined for neurotoxicity (Szpir, 2006) and could also be a contributing factor. Children affected by neurodevelopment disorders will increasingly become burden to society for care as they age giving rise to the essentiality that scientists discover the etiology behind this alarming increase. The costs of reduced IQ in the United States alone in 1987 may have reached $327 billion (Muir & Zegarac, 2001).

What is absolutely clear is the evidence that pollution and toxicants affect the brain and central nervous system in a negative way. The symptoms of neurological disorders being similar to those of mercury poisoning will require additional research to determine if there is a connection between neurodevelopmental disorders and thimerosal in vaccines.

To date no studies have been performed to compare human populations vaccinated and populations unvaccinated. In the past the Centers for Disease Control (CC) has purported vaccines and autism to be unrelated or casually related (Institute of Medicine, 2004) though the CDC has recently announced the funding of a multi-agency study to determine the potential for environmental and genetic causes of autism which includes thimerosal (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006). Of further note is that studies have compared human populations vaccinated with thimerosal containing vaccinations to populations vaccinated with non-thimerosal containing alternatives. Do thimerosal containing vaccinations contribute to childhood developmental neurotoxicology resulting in neurodevelopment and neuropsychological disorders such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and environmental illness in the United States?

Now we examine some of the most common neurodevelopmental and environmental disorders including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS).

In the United States autism, once a rare condition (Goodman & Koduru, 2000), has increased from 4 – 5 per 10,000 children in the 1980’s to 30 – 60 per 10,000 children in the 1990’s, an increase of more than ten times (Szpir, 2006; Hertz-Picciotto et al, 2006). Autism spectrum disorder, which includes Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a neurodevopmental disorder characterized by impairments in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and restricted, stereotyped interests and behaviors (Hertz-Picciotto et al, 2006).

Currently the cause and contributing factors to autism are poorly understood (Hertz-Picciotto et al, 2006). Originally thought to arise from a case of bad parenting, it is now widely accepted that aberrant brain development underlies autism as a mechanism of pathogenesis after several studies have shown structural changes and neurophysiologic differences in the brains of autistic children (Hertz-Picciotto et al, 2006). Genetic studies have linked certain genes to autism but no single gene has yet been reliably replicable (Hertz-Picciotto, et al, 2006). “Concordance in monozygotic twins suggests that a minimum of 40% of autism cases are likely to have an environmental cause” (Hertz-Picciotto, et al, 2006, p. 1119). Some researchers are looking to phthalates, PCB’s, and other chemicals for which use has increased about the same time as autism (Booker, 2001).

A 2006 study concluded that there is a potential association between autism and estimated metal concentrations in the air (Windham et al, 2006). Another study found a few specific environmental factors including prenatal exposure to thalidomide, valproic acid, and rubella though they are likely to play a negligible role in modern society (Hertz-Picciotto et al, 2006). Yet another study postulates that thimerosal may be a potential triggering mechanism contributing to autism in susceptible individuals (Walker et al, 2006). Other potential etiologies include neuroimmunomoduatory factors, lymphocyte activation, cytokine profiles, distribution of neuropeptides and neurotrophins at birth (Hertz-Picciotto, et al, 2006), and decreased levels of epidermal growth factor (Suzuki et al, 2006). As autism increases (Hertz-Picciotto, et al, 2006) it is becoming increasingly important to uncover the etiology behind this devastating and costly disorder (Szpir, 2006).

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is another common childhood disorder with prevalence estimated as high as 8% of the population (Braun et al, 2006). ADHD is characterized by an inability to organize complex sequences of behavior, focus in the face of distracting stimuli, and to respond appropriately to consequences (Rice, 2000). The person with ADHD may behave impulsively and be unable to pay attention to the task at hand (Rice, 2000). The diagnosis of ADHD has increased 250% between 1990 and 1998 (Szpir, 2006). Part of the large increase may be due to the fact that adults are being diagnosed with ADHD which was seldom diagnosed in the past, mainly because of the presence of comorbidities, and the failure to recognize ADHD as a real syndrome in adults by some researchers (Aparecida da Silva, 2006). The prevalence is three times higher among males than among females, possibly because males tend to externalize behaviors more than females (Braun et al, 2006). ADHD was shown by Adewuya & Famuyiwa (2006) to occur across cultures.

In early studies it was hypothesized that neuroanatomical abnormality of the prefrontal cortex may cause ADHD as this area of the brain is involved in the executive behaviors that ADHD produces a deficit in (Rice, 2000). More recently both genetic and environmental factors, including exposure to prenatal tobacco smoke and lead, have been implicated in ADHD (Braun et al, 2006). A study by Rice (2000) found parallels between the features of ADHD and the behavior of monkeys exposed developmentally to lead or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The deficits observed included discrimination reversal and spatial delayed alternation performance (Rice, 2000). Another study found high levels of lead were correlated with ADHD in children as well (Braun et al, 2006). Much like autism, ADHD is becoming increasingly costly and uncovering the etiology behind the condition is becoming increasingly critical (Szpir, 2006).

“Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexpected death of an infant under the age of 1 year, where a complete autopsy, including scene investigation, fails to reveal a cause of death” (Losiniecki, 2006). SIDS is diagnosed by exclusion of all other possible causes of death (Losiniecki, 2006). Prior to sudden death, victims of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) are described as having less reactions to environmental stimuli, being less physically active, having faster heart rate and decreased movement during sleep, and experiencing more breathlessness and exhaustion during feeding (Reid, 2006).

Many studies examined and found correlation between sleep position, bed sharing, and SIDS (Ostfeld et al, 2006; Alder et al, 2006; Thompson et al, 2006). However it is unclear why a child would become vulnerable to a certain sleep position or why there has been a sudden increase in SIDS since 1980 though some postulations include problems with the airway and brain stem (Ostfeld et al, 2006; Alder et al, 2006; Thompson et al, 2006). One study by Thompson et al (2006) cited several potential confounders including younger infant age, Maori ethnicity, low birth weight, prone sleep position, use of a sheepskin, and pillow use that were associated with an increased risk of SIDS. Another study suggests a strong link between metals in particulate air pollution and some forms of infant death (Glinianaia et al, 2004) that may explain the etiology behind the confounders found by other researchers. Recently researchers have turned to environmental factors in attempts to explain SIDS. One study found a correlation between environmental tobacco smoke and SIDS (Bonham et al, 2001). Wasley et al (2002) found an association between exposure to methyl parathion, an organophosphate pesticide, and SIDS. Though the association was not statistically significant, Wasley et al (2002) concluded that more studies were necessary on the basis of the association. Additional studies will be required to replicate these studies and perhaps isolate the etiology of SIDS.

Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is an environmental illness (EI) in which negative health effects including fatigue, headache, nausea, cognitive dysfunction, heart arrhythmia, respiratory distress, and seizures are experienced in multiple organ systems from exposure to low levels of common chemicals normally deemed as safe (Gibson, 2003). In 1999 a consensus criteria was established for the diagnoses and definition of MCS (Joffres et al, 2005). The criteria states that symptoms are reproducible with repeated chemical exposure, the condition is chronic, levels of exposure lower than previously tolerated elicit symptoms, symptoms improve or resolve when incitants are removed, symptoms appear in response to multiple chemically unrelated substances, and symptoms involve multiple organ systems commonly the cardiac, pulmonary, and neurological systems (Joffres et al, 2005). . The prevalence of MCS ranges from 16% (Gibson, 2005) to 33% (Meggs et al, 1996). Sixteen percent is generally accepted as the most accurate figure for prevalence in the United States (Gibson, 2005).

One of the first studies on MCS focused on possible long term potentiation in the hippocampus and neural sensitization as a central mechanism in MCS (Pall, 2003). Later studies examined the role of the inflammatory process and found that brain inflammation is correlated with symptoms of MCS (Pall, 2003). Meggs (1999) concluded that MCS is potentially caused by low molecular weight chemicals that bind to chemoreceptors on sensory nerve C-fibers leading to the release of inflammatory mediators. Another study concluded the CYP2D6 allele was apparently responsible for genetically variable toxin pathways that may cause MCS to surface (McKeown-Eyssen et al, 2004). Pall (2003) more recently identified a pattern of evidence that suggests elevated nitric oxide and peroxynitrite (NO/ONOO) may be the etiology behind the symptoms for MCS as well as several other related conditions including fibromyalgia, post traumatic stress disorder, gulf war syndrome, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Pall has identified viral infection, bacterial infection, carbon monoxide exposure, physical trauma, organophosphate poisoning, severe psychological stress, ciguatoxin poisoning, and ionizing radiation exposures as initiating stressors that begin the NO/ONOO cycle of biochemistry leading to MCS (Pall, 2006). With such a large percentage of the population suffering from MCS (Gibson, 2005) and a large amount of toxicants that may initiate the NO/ONOO cycle (Pall, 2006) it is conceivable that nearly any environmental toxicant could also be a common exposure that may initiate or exacerbate MCS.

It is plausible that a single toxicant or a combination of toxicants may be linked to the etiology of autism, ADHD, SIDS, and MCS. Only time and research will tell.


Adewuya, AO, Famuyiwa, OO (2006). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder among Nigerian primary school children: prevalence and co-morbid conditions. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Alder, MR, Hyderi, A, Hamilton, A, Brown, P (2006). What are safe sleeping arrangements for infants? Journal of Family Practice. 55:12, 1083-1087.

Aparecida da Silva, M, Louza, MR, Vallada, HP (2006). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults: social-demographic profile from a university hospital ADHD outpatient unit in São Paulo, Brazil. Associação Arquivos de Neuro-Psiquiatria. 64:3, 563-567.

Bonham, AC, Chen, CY, Mutoh, T, Joad, JP (2001). Lung c-fiber CNS reflex: role in the respiratory consequences of extended environmental tobacco smoke exposure in young guinea pigs. Environmental Health Perspectives. 109:4, 573-578.

Booker, S (2001). NIEHS investigates links between children, the environment, and neurotoxicity. Environmental Health Perspectives. 109:6, A258-A261.

Braun, JM, Robert SK, Froehlich, T, Auinger, P, & Lanphear, BP (2006). Exposures to environmental toxicants and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in U.S. children. Environmental Health Perspectives. 114:12, 1904-1909.

Ball LK, Ball, R, Pratt, RD (2001). An assessment of thimerosal use in childhood vaccines. Pediatrics. 107:1147-1154.

Bjornberg, KA, Vahter, M, Berglund, B, Niklasson, B, Blennow, M, & Sandborgh-Englund, G (2005). Transport of Methylmercury and Inorganic Mercury to the Fetus and Breast-Fed Infant. 113:10, 1381-1385.

Booker, S (2001). NIEHS investigates links between children, the environment, and neurotoxicity. Environmental Health Perspectives. 109:6, A258-A261.

Burbacher, TM, Shen, DD, Liberto, N, Grant, KS, Cernichiari, E, & Clarkson, T (2005). Comparison of blood and brain mercury levels in infant monkeys exposed to methylmercury or vaccines containing thimerosal. Environmental Health Perspectives. 113:8, 1015-1021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2006). CDC research on vaccines & autism. Retrieved November 7, 2006, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site:

Clarkson, TW (2002). The Three Modern Faces of Mercury. Environmental Health Perspectives. 110:1, 11-23.

Colborn,T (2004). Neurodevelopment and endocrine disruption. Environmental Health Perspectives. 112:9, 944-949.

Gibson, P (2003). Perceived treatment efficacy for conventional and alternative therapies reported by persons with multiple chemical sensitivity. Environmental Health Perspectives. 111:12, 1498 – 1504.

Gibson, P (2005). Understanding & accommodating people with multiple chemical sensitivity in everyday living. Houston, TX: Independent Living Research Utilization.

Glinianaia, SV, Rankin, J, Bell, R, Pless-Mulloli, T, & Howel, D (2004). Does particulate air pollution contribute to infant death? A systemic review. Environmental Health Perspectives. 112:14, 1365-1370.

Goth, SR, Chu, RA, Gregg, JP, Cherednichenko, G, & Pessah, IN (2006). Uncoupling of ATP-mediated calcium signaling and dysregulated interleukin-6 secretion in dendritic cells by nanomolar thimerosal. Environmental Health Perspectives. 114:7, 1083-1091.

Goodman, LR, & Koduru, S (2000). Chemicals in the environment and developmental toxicity to children: A public health and policy perspective. Environmental Health Perspectives. 108:S3, A412-A413.
Hertz-Picciotto, I, Croen, L, Hansen, R, Jones, C, Van De Water, J, & Pessah, I (2006). The CHARGE study: an epidemiologic investigation of genetic and environmental factors contributing to autism. Environmental Health Perspectives. 114:7, 1119-1125.

Institute of Medicine, (2004). Immunization safety review: vaccines and autism. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

McKeown-Eyssen, G, Baines, C, Cole, D, Riley, N, Tyndale, R, Marshall, L, & Jazmaji, V (2004). Case-control studies of genotypes in multiple chemical sensitivity: CYP2D, NAT1, NAT2, PON1, PON2 and MTHFR. International Journal of Epidemiology 33, 1-8.

Joffres, MR, Sampalli, T, & Fox, Roy (2005). Physiologic and symptomatic responses to low-level substances in individuals with and without chemical sensitivities: a randomized controlled blinded pilot booth study. Environmental Health Perspectives. 113:9, 1178-1183.

Losiniecki, A, & Prahlow, JA (2006). Sudden Infant Death Due to Neurofibromatosis Type 1. American Journal of Medical Pathology. 27:4, 317-319.

McKeown-Eyssen, G, Baines, C, Cole, D, Riley, N, Tyndale, R, Marshall, L, & Jazmaji, V (2004). Case-control studies of genotypes in multiple chemical sensitivity: CYP2D, NAT1, NAT2, PON1, PON2 and MTHFR. International Journal of Epidemiology 33, 1-8.

Meggs, WJ (1999). Mechanisms of allergy and chemical sensitivity. Toxicology and Industrial Health. 15:3-4, 331-338.

Meggs, WJ, Dunn, KA, Bloch, RM, Goodman, PE, & Davidoff, AL (1996). Prevalence and nature of allergy and chemical sensitivity in a general population. Environmental Health Perspectives. 51(4), 275-82.

Muir, T, & Zegarac, M (2001). Societal costs of exposure to toxic substances: Economic and health costs of four case studies that are candidates fro environmental causation. Environmental Health Perspectives. 109:6, 885-903.

Ostfeld, BM, Perl, H, Esposito, L, Hempstead, K, Hinnen, R, Sandler, A, Pearson, PG, & Hegyi, T (2006) Sleep environment, positional, lifestyle, and demographic characteristics associated with bed sharing in sudden infant death syndrome cases: a population-based study. Pediatrics. 118:5, 2051-2059.

Pall, M (2003). Elevated nitric oxide/peroxynitrite theory of multiple chemical sensitivity: central role of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors in the sensitivity mechanism. Environmental Health Perspectives. 111:12, 1461-1464.

Pall, M (2006). Novel disease paradigm Produces explanations for a whole group of illnesses. Washington State University, Department of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences, Retrieved December 3, 2006, from:

Reid, GM (2006). Sudden infant death syndrome: selenium administered above dietary needs stabilizes the electrocardiograms of subjects deprived of exercise stimuli to the brain. Medical Hypotheses.
Rice, D (2000). Parallels between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and behavioral deficits produced by neurotoxic exposure in monkeys. Environmental Health Perspectives. 108:3, 405–408.

Schettler, T (2001).Toxic threats to neurologic development of children. Environmental Health Perspectives. 109:6, 813-816.

Suzuki, K, Hashimoto, K, Iwata, Y, Nakamura, K, Tsujii, M, Tsuchiya, KJ. Sekine, Y, Suda, S, Sugihara, G, Matsuzaki, H, Sugiyama, T, Kawai, M, Minabe, Y, Takei, N, & Mori, N (2006). Decreased serum levels of epidermal growth factor in adult subjects with high-functioning autism. Biological Psychiatry.

Szpir, M (2006). New thinking on neurodevelopment. Environmental Health Perspectives. 114:2, A100-A107.

Thompson, JM, Thach, BT, Becroft, DM, Mitchell, EA, & New Zealand Cot Death Study Group (2006). Sudden infant death syndrome: risk factors for infants found face down differ from other SIDS cases. Journal of Pediatrics. 149:5, 630-633.

Walker, SJ, Segal, J, & Aschner, M (2006). Cultured lymphocytes from autistic children and non-autistic siblings up-regulate heat shock protein RNA in response to thimerosal challenge. Neurotoxicology. 27:5, 685-692.

Wasley, A, Lepine, L, Jenkins, R, Rubin, C (2002). An investigation of unexplained infant deaths in houses contaminated with methyl parathion. Environmental Health Perspectives. 110:6, 1053-1056.

Windham, GC, Zhang, L, Gunier, R, Croen, LA, & Grether, JK (2006). Autism spectrum disorder in relation to distribution of hazardous air pollutants in the San Francisco bay area. Environmental Health Perspectives. 114:9, 1438-1444.

This information is for informational purposes and is not intended to replace the examination, diagnosis and treatment of a licensed physician and no such claims are inferred. Neither MCS America, norLourdes Salvador will be responsible for misuse of this information.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

MCS Nebraska Is Now an Active Subsidiary of MCS America!

Studies estimate that 16% of Americans exhibit symptoms of chemical sensitivity. Roughly 6% of those meet the established criterion for multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). MCS is a chronic condition, not specific to any gender, age, socioeconomic group, or nationality, that affects multiple organ systems. The onset can be gradual as a result of chronic low-level exposure or sudden as a result of a single acute exposure. Damage is often permanent and irreversible; the primary treatment is avoidance of all chemical exposures.

Many everyday products may contain unregulated chemicals that are neurotoxins and can trigger a reaction from low-level exposures, including personal and laundry care items, perfumes, colognes, lotions, deodorants, hair dyes, scented candles, air fresheners, cleaning products, plastics, carpet, vehicle exhaust, and insect & weed killers. People with MCS have genetically altered detoxification systems that slow down the breakdown of these substances. Symptoms from exposure can range from minor annoyances to life-threatening reactions. Other conditions that are frequently comorbid with MCS include chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, asthma, allergies, and autoimmune diseases.

The mission of MCS America is to gain respect and understanding for the many men, women, and children suffering with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), toxic/chemical injury (TI/CI), and other related disabilities through brochures, printed materials, newsletters, support groups, public awareness campaigns, and lobbying for the full recognition of MCS in the medical and legal communities while promoting mutual respect between fellow human beings and encouraging all members of the MCS community to participate and create a world in which there is no threat of toxic injury.

“We want the same recognition for MCS that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently granted to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” said Lourdes Salvador, Founder and President of MCS America. “MCS is particularly significant when one considers that this condition impacts an estimated 16% of the population as opposed to 7% who are affected by diabetes, which most Americans are familiar with, costing billions in treatments, lost income due to missing work, and absenteeism from school.”

Janice Trease, Chapter Coordinator for MCS Nebraska, a subsidiary of MCS America, notes that even though the Midwest is not heavily populated, she sees signs of MCS around her every day. Some sufferers are not aware of their own condition in the early stages and resources are scarce in Nebraska. A sufferer of MCS herself, she travels 150 miles to Missouri, the nearest treatment center, for medical care. “Chemical sensitivity affects every aspect of my life. Every contact must be closely monitored. MCS requires hyper-vigilance to avoid an unexpected exposure that can cause severe life-altering reactions,” said Trease.

Trease looks forward to the day when MCS is fully researched and recognized. Her all time favorite quote by Schopenhauer is “Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is opposed. Third, it is regarded as self evident.” She says it will be a great day to celebrate when the scientific community confirms the biomarkers for MCS and the community regards it as self-evident.

Nebraska residents interested in joining MCS Nebraska and participating in a discussion group may apply at: For more information, referrals, and resources on MCS Nebraska, see the MCS Nebraska subsidiary website at

For more information on MCS America, see To join MCS America, apply at:

To subscribe to the monthly MCS America News:

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Low Down on Air Fresheners: Is Your Air Freshener Safe?

Most people with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) know that air fresheners are bad for our health. However, few give us the time of day when it comes to alternatives to air fresheners to make public places accessible and few realize that air fresheners are bad for everyone, not just those with MCS, asthma, and other respiratory disorders.

A 2006 study at the University of Colorado and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston concluded that air-freshening chemicals may lead to the formation of cancerous cells by suppression of the enzymes that are essential for regulating normal cell death (Air-freshening chemicals may lead to cancerous cells, 2006). This is just one example of the negative effects of air fresheners. There are many acute toxic effects of fragranced products including, but not limited to, neurotoxicity, sensory irritation, pulmonary irritation, decreasing expiratory airflow velocity, and alterations of functional observational battery (Anderson & Anderson, 2006).

The presence of these toxicants in the community is putting the public at risk of developing chemical sensitivities (CS) or other environmental illness (EI). The truth is that no one is immune to EI/CS. Something as simple as carbon monoxide exposure, organophosphate poisoning, ciguatoxin poisoning, ionizing radiation exposures, pesticides, solvents, indoor air pollutants, and other acute and/or chronic low level exposures including petroleum products such as air fresheners are potential initiating stressors that may begin the peroxynitrite and nitric oxide (NO/ONOO) cycle of biochemistry leading to chemical sensitivities, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue (Pall, 2006).

Air fresheners and plug-ins don't actually freshen the air or eliminate odors. Rather, they permeate the air with a powerful synthetically derived chemical fragrance to cover up odors (Fleming, 2005). They also contain chemicals designed to numb our sense of smell by deadening our nerves (Fleming, 2005). In other words, they add more odors in an attempt to mask lack of cleanliness at the expense of human health.

Many toxicant chemicals are emitted during air-freshener use including "d-limonene, dihydromyrcenol, linalool, linalyl acetate, and beta-citronellol which were emitted at 35-180 mg/day over 3 days while air concentrations averaged 30-160 microg/m3" in a recent study (Singer et al, 2006). Maternal depression is also significantly associated with air fresheners (Farrow et al, 2003). Glade, which contains short chain aliphatic hydrocarbons, can cause ventricular fibrillation and be fatal if inhaled (LoVecchio & Fullton, 2001). In a 1997 study emissions of "air freshener at several concentrations (including concentrations to which many individuals are actually exposed) caused increases in sensory and pulmonary irritation, decreases in airflow velocity, and abnormalities of behavior measured by the functional observational battery score" (Anderson & Anderson, 1997).

Cleaning removes the source of odor. If something is clean there is no odor nor is there a fragrance. Often visible dirt can be seen despite fragrances in the air indicating the area is fragranced and dirty rather than clean and fresh.

The use of air fresheners is an unfortunate and uneducated practice gleaned on people by the manufacturer and media focus on the "germ scare." One such example is a commercial which announced scientific studies found more germs on a computer keyboard in an office than on a public toilet seat. The implication was that everyone watching needed to run out to buy a disinfectant spray. On closer examination, the public is grossly misled by this commercial. How often do office workers eat at their desks while typing? Probably at least once a day. How often do they clean the key board? Probably almost never. Yet a public toilet is cleaned at least once a day with strong disinfectants. The mere frequency of cleaning clearly establishes why there are more germs on a keyboard. If the keyboard was cleaned daily like the public toilet chances are fewer germs would be found. However, the manufacturer did not want us to know that. They only wanted us to buy their product and, like many advertising schemes, resorted to trickery and deceit to increase sales at the unfortunate expense of human health.

There are many inexpensive alternatives to freshen the air. Fresh air begins with clean air that is not full of the chemical toxicants sold in most stores. If odors are present removing the odor is the goal rather than masking it with other strong chemical laden toxicants and nerve deadening agents.

For healthy ways to clean see:

Once the area is clean some ways to absorb and remove odors and further freshen the air include:

White Distilled Vinegar
Place in spray bottle and spray in the air as needed to eliminate odors.

Baking Soda
Place ¼ cup of baking soda in a spray bottle of warm water.
Shake and spray in the air as needed.

Carpet Freshener
Sprinkle baking soda, work it in with a broom or brush, and vacuum like any carpet powder

If you like scents around the home or office it is easy to grow your own flowers and put a bouquet in each room. They will add a nice fragrance to any room. Be careful to avoid commercially grown flowers as they may be sprayed with harmful pesticides, dyes, and fragrances without your knowledge.

To fresher and safer air!


Air-freshening chemicals may lead to cancerous cells (2006) Denver Post. Nation: World News. Retrieved May 15, 2006 from:

Anderson, RC, & Anderson, JH (1998) Toxic effects of air freshener emissions. Archives of Environmental Health. 52(6):433-41.

Anderson, RC, & Anderson, JH (1998) Acute toxic effects of fragrance products. Archives of Environmental Health. 53(2):138-46.

Farrow, A, Taylor, H, Northstone, K, Golding, J (2003). Symptoms of mothers and infants related to total volatile organic compounds in household products. Archives of Environmental Health. 58(10):633-41.

Fleming, J (2005). Let's Clear the Air About Air Fresheners and Plug-Ins. MCS Global. Retrieved from:

Gibson, P (2005). Understanding & accommodating people with multiple chemical sensitivity in everyday living. Houston, TX: Independent Living Research Utilization.

Lovechio, F, & Fullton, SE (2001). Ventricular fibrillation following inhalation of Glade Air Freshener. European Journal of Emergency Medicine. 8(2):153-4.

Meggs, WJ, Dunn, KA, Bloch, RM, Goodman, PE, & Davidoff, AL (1996). Prevalence and nature of allergy and chemical sensitivity in a general population. Environmental Health Perspectives. 51(4), 275-82.

Pall, M (2006). Novel disease paradigm produces explanations for a whole group of illnesses. Washington State University, Department of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences, Retrieved December 3, 2006, from:

Singer, BC, Destaillats, H, Hodgson, AT, Nazaroff, WW (2006). Cleaning products and air fresheners: emissions and resulting concentrations of glycol ethers and terpenoids. Indoor Air. 16(3):179-91.

Copyrighted © 2007 Lourdes Salvador

Healing Modalities for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Did You Say Exercise?

Yup, I said exercise! Before we go any further, don't begin an exercise program without checking with your doctor first! Let's play it safe. Exercise is not for everyone. Certainly, if you have chronic fatigue or certain other health conditions, it should be taken slowly and may even be contraindicated. That's for you and your doctor to decide. So please check with a doctor first.

Now, once you've been given the go ahead, you'll probably be wondering why exercise is showing up in a healing modalities column. No, exercise will not cure MCS. But it will improve your ability to RUN FAST in the face of an exposure without losing your breath and forcefully shove smelly people out of the way. Seriously, like any healing modality, there are true benefits of exercise including increased strength, improved circulation, improved stamina, cardiovascular health, flexibility, pain reduction, and even relaxation. All of these lead to better overall health and it can't hurt to be healthier in the face of MCS and the damage many toxicants can and do cause.

For me, exercise is a form of meditation that far surpasses any other form of meditation or relaxation. Nothing relieves pain more than a hard core workout. Call it a "runners high" if you like, but when one exercises there is a true change in the body as endorphins are released. Endorphins are the bodies endogenous, natural pain killers. My muscles melt like butter after a workout. I feel relaxed and good.

So what kind of workout is best? Now seriously, that is like asking what food is the best food on earth. Answers will vary greatly. You may already know what form of exercise you enjoy and suits you best. If not, I suggest trying out a few different types of exercise on differing days.

Allow yourself time to recuperate in between, take it slow in the beginning, and see what you enjoy. Some ideas are aerobics, yoga, running, biking, weight training, and Pilates. The main thing is to find something you enjoy. If you enjoy it, you will stick with it. Actually, you might become addicted to it!

Personally, I'm a weight lifting addict. It keeps the body in shape, is easy to do, and can be done daily if body parts are rotated. I prefer a real gym, though with MCS for many of us that is not possible. Some concerns at the gym include cleaners left out for members to mop up sweat with, fragrances on other members, and air filtration. I find if the gym has a good air filtration system or is open air I am able to move about to avoid too many things that bother me. A gym with several smaller rooms, rather than one big room, works well too because changing rooms when someone enters with fragrance is not a big deal.

A home gym is easy to set up for a couple of hundred dollars. A simple adjustable bench, an EZ curl bar, a set of adjustable dumbbells, a few extra weights for the EZ curl bar and dumbbells, and a couple of heavy duty exercise bands is about all you need to get started. If you wanted to spend $600 you could add a squat rack and bicycle, as well as go for a bench that has a straight bar, leg curl/extension attachment, and rack for the bar for bench pressing.

If you want to keep it simple, the neighbor hood track is a good place to do some walking and running. Many calisthenics can be done in the living room. The sofa makes a perfect ledge to do crunches too! With the benefits of exercise being so great, it's worth a try to see if it improves health and function. Oh, I must go now. It's gym time!

Copyrighted © 2007 Lourdes Salvador

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Pathologies of the Diagnostic Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)

Pathologizing people who are dissimilar as mentally ill gives unreasonable and unprecedented power to those who chose conformity. Interestingly the real illness is often not experienced by the person who is living their life as they see fit but rather the person who fears someone who is brave enough to live life as they see fit. Many mental illnesses are figments of our vivid imagination. Labeling choices, such as protecting oneself by avoiding chemical exposure, and behaviors as disorders only causes harm in the long run. Choice and behavior is relative to the differences in human beings, their nature, their intelligence, and their personalities rather than mental illness.

Americans have an obsession with classifying and labeling every behavior as abnormal. However "many psychiatric "conditions" exist only as labels in the minds of psychologists" (Null, 2002). If everyone has a mental disorder they could be institutionalized and controlled like good little soldiers marching in a perfect line with uniforms on all moving at the same time, with the same haircut, the same polished shoes, the same goals, and the same objectives like a line of identical controlled robots. "You'll find that any normal behavior can be diagnosed as mental illness, and any adverse reactions to environmental influence, peer pressure and social unrest has earned a psychiatric label. If you don't wake up on time, if you sleep poorly, if you drink coffee or smoke cigarettes, or if you give up these things, if you stutter, if a child fidgets or loses things or can't wait their turn in a game, if you've ever been intoxicated, if you've had trouble with arithmetic or with grammar or with punctuation or writing expressively - all of these are now considered mental illnesses according to psychiatrists. Even teenagers who argue with their parents are, according to the DSM IV, suffering a mental disorder called oppositional defiance disorder" (Null, 2002). The DSM is premeditated to maximize conformity and minimize individuality.

Perhaps most astounding is that symptoms of real physical illnesses such as malaise, fatigue, heart palpitations, dizziness, loss of energy, and pain are often used to make diagnoses of mental illness. For example, there is a DSM code for "pain disorder". This leaves a window of opportunity open for a doctor to make a diagnosis of "pain disorder" if he is unable to find a cause for the pain. Most often the case is that not every test has been run because it is too time consuming, expensive, or the insurance will not pay for it. What authority allows such fallacious diagnoses? The DSM does!

The DSM is designed for power and control. It has more weaknesses than strengths. It is controversial because the DSM is the authoritative tool the powerful can use to exercise control over the masses and drug the country into oblivion. This generates huge profits for pharmaceutical companies and helps to raise campaign contributions for politicians.

In a recent news article Jeanne Lenzer (2004) comments "the president's commission found that "despite their prevalence, mental disorders often go undiagnosed" and recommended comprehensive mental health screening for "consumers of all ages," including preschool children." Lenzer (2004) also confirms "Drug companies have contributed three times more to the campaign of George Bush". "The medical and educational establishments are conducting a skyrocketing campaign to get kids, and their parents, to "just say yes" to brain-altering pharmaceuticals, with the drug of choice being Ritalin" (Null, 2002).

The DSM is published by the American Psychological Association to provide guidelines to diagnose mental disorders (Wikipedia, 2006). The DSM lists codes that practitioners use to bill insurance companies and collect statistics on conditions. Each code has a specific set of criteria by which a practitioner can diagnose a patient. The intention was to streamline the field and provide consistent, uniform, and objective terms through a multiaxial system. The belief was that all practitioners would reach the same diagnosis for a patient in this uniform system.

According to Wikipedia (2006) "the criteria and classification system of the DSM are based on a process of consultation and committee meetings involving primarily psychiatrists. Therefore, the content of the DSM does not reflect all opinions on the subject of psychopathology, emotional distress and social functioning. Nor are there any objective, biological verifiable standards to which it adheres. The criteria, and the way they are applied by individual clinicians are at least to some extent influenced by cultural variables and are periodically altered to reflect the contemporary social landscape. What is and what is not considered a mental disorder changes over time. For example, prior to a psychiatric plebiscite in 1973, homosexuality was listed in the DSM as a diagnosable mental illness."

"Deconstructive critics assert that DSM invents illnesses and behaviors" (Wikipedia, 2006). The criteria for an illness in the DSM are subject to misinterpretation. For example the DSM code 300.82 is known as undifferentiated somatoform disorder. Clearly a somatoform disorder is another way for a doctor to say, "It's all in your head". Simply because a doctor cannot find a cause for chest pain does not mean there is not a cause for the pain that went undetected. All the therapy and psychobabble in the world to convince the patient he is not ill will not remove an artery blockage that a physician overlooked. In the long run therapy would only harm the patient as he became convinced he is mentally ill and begins to ignore important symptoms.

Physicians learn in medical school that 50 - 60 % (Ray & Oakley, 2003) of patients they will see do not have a physical disorder that can be treated by medicine but rather present with a psychological disorder. Forty million people (Null, 2002) in the United States are diagnosed with depression. The DSM invents illnesses that are nonexistent by classifying normal behavior and human development as mental dysfunction.

In addition "it is also known that the diagnosis of some mental disorders is influenced by gender role expectations. That is, while diagnostic criteria do not mention gender, clinicians diagnose women's and men's behavior in different ways (Wikipedia, 2006). Clinicians own viewpoints can get in the way of an accurate diagnosis. A man who acts meek, shy, and compliant to the women in his life may be considered mentally ill while a woman would not. "Sexist values result in a higher rate of mental illness labeling for men, supposedly the more powerful social category, and less for women, who are generally powerless" (Keel, 2005). The way the DSM is classified does not allow for appropriate differences in gender role expectations nor does it discuss the etiology of supposed illness.

In Myth, Stereotype, and Cross-Gender Identity in the DSM-IV Wilson & Hammond (1996) attack the DSM and the ridiculous issues that created classifications such as transvestic fetishism. One has to wonder what good purpose the DSM was designed to serve.

Health insurance will not pay for services unless a diagnosis is made and a DSM code is provided. Labeling people with an illness can be counterproductive and actually cause more harm than good. If an individual is told they have anxiety disorder it will likely become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Years of therapy can do more harm than good when no real illness is present.

If we relied on the classifications in the DSM every person in the world would have a diagnosable mental illness. The pharmaceutical companies will make more money and support physicians through bonus programs to make these diagnoses.

The bottom line is if we make a choice or behavior wrong by psychologizing it we give power to those who choose conformity and institutionalize otherwise mentally healthy people who choose a unique path. Sadly the DSM has no business in treatment with its current classifications. It is merely a tool used to label a person and bill insurance companies. Labels are hurtful and can alter a person's psyche for the worse. There are other more effective methods of billing that could be arranged such as time billing. The world would be a much better place if doctors found out what was really wrong with people and allowed people to make individual choices.

The sad reality is doctors make more money when people stay sick. Pharmaceutical companies make more money when we take drugs for non-existent illnesses. The discrimination created by labeling those who chose or require different orientations that suit them is criminal.


American Psychiatric Association (2000). DSM-IV-TR Arlington: American Psychiatric Association

Keel, Robert (2005). Mental Disorder: The Medicalization of Deviance.
Retrieved March 24, 2006 from:

Lenzer, J. (2004). Bush Plans to Screen Whole US Population for Mental Illness. BMJ Publishing Group.
Retrieved March 24, 2006 from:

Null, G. (2002). Pathologizing Life
Retrieved March 25, 2006 from:

Ray, C. & Oakley, C. 2003. Drugs, Society, and Human Behavior. 10th Edition.
New York: McGraw-Hill Companies

Wikipedia (2006). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
Retrieved on March 21, 2006 from:

Wilson, K. & Hammond, B. (1996). Myth, Stereotype, and Cross-Gender Identity in the DSM-IV. 21st Annual Feminist Psychology Conference.
Retrieved 3/25/2006 from:

Copyrighted © 2007 Lourdes Salvador

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Healing Modalities: Oil Pulling

The latest craze in healing modalities has turned to what is known as oil pulling. Perhaps you've heard about it already. Oil pulling was developed by Dr. Karach and presented in a paper claiming oil pulling will cure "head-aches, bronchitis, tooth pain, thrombosis, eczema, ulcers and diseases of stomach, intestines, heart, blood, kidney, liver, lungs and women's diseases. It heals diseases of nerves, paralysis, and encephalitis. It prevents the growth of malignant tumors, cuts and heals them. Chronic sleeplessness is cured" (Oil Pulling: A Wonderful Therapy, 2005-2006).

Despite this astonishing, hard to believe list of conditions that oil pulling is purported to cure, it does not appear to be a get rich quick scheme for a natural practitioner or manufacturer. Quite to the contrary the only thing one needs to carry out oil pulling is oil. One might wonder just where this oil must be purchased and think it must be a special oil however it is easy to find on the shelf of most grocery stores. All that is required is a bottle of cold-pressed sesame or sunflower oil.

The procedure involves taking a tablespoon of oil and swishing it around in the mouth, sucking and chomping on it to create a thin foam for about ten to fifteen minutes each morning. Then the mouth is rinsed several times with water. The procedure can be done more than once a day though it is recommended on an empty stomach.

Skeptics may still be looking for a catch though there does not appear to be one at close examination. It certainly could not hurt to swish oil in the mouth and is worthy of a trial run.

It is recommended to keep the chin tilted back to reach the rear molars, use only sesame and sunflower oils for favorable results, and wait at least 4 hours after meals and one hour after drinking before oil pulling (Folk remedies and holistic cures: Oil pulling, 2006 ). A worsening of symptoms is an excellent indication that the disease/ailment is being cured and one should not stop oil pulling if symptoms are aggravated or side effects occur as this is a sign your body is healing (Folk remedies and holistic cures: Oil pulling, 2006 ).

After oil pulling it is recommended to clean the sink properly using some antibacterial soap because the spittle contains harmful bacteria and toxic bodily waste (Oil Pulling Therapy, 2006). It is said that if one were to see one drop of this liquid magnified 600 times under a microscope, one would see microbes in their first stage of development (Oil Pulling Therapy, 2006).

One of the first signs oil pulling is working is the tightening of loose teeth, the whitening of teeth, and a reduction in gum bleeding (Oil Pulling Therapy, 2006). Other conditions may resolve after several weeks or months. During the oil-pulling/swishing process one's metabolism is intensified, leading to improved health (Oil Pulling Therapy, 2006).

Dr. Karach believes that through oil pulling it is possible to "heal individual cells, cell conglomerates such as lymph nodes and more complex tissues such as internal organs simultaneously" and increase the human lifespan to 150 years (Oil Pulling Therapy, 2006). While that sounds a bit fantastical for modern day life, Karach claims that beneficial micro flora throughout the body are provided with a healthy continuum through oil pulling. At the very least no harm can be done by swishing a food as long as it is not swallowed with the harmful bacteria. Worth a try? Sure sounds like it! See you in the oil aisle at the grocery store!


Folk remedies and holistic cures: Oil pulling, (2006 ). Earth Clinic. Retrieved December 26, 2006, Web site:

Oil pulling: A wonderful therapy(2005-2006 ). Retrieved December 26, 2006, Web site:

Oil Pulling Therapy, (December 21, 2006). Retrieved December 26, 2006, from Life Technology News Web site:

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sauna for Better Health

The body excretes waste products and toxins via four avenues: urinary excretion, elimination, perspiration, and exhaled vapor. While excretion, elimination, and exhaled vapor happen continually throughout the day without any effort on our part, perspiration is often restricted. This restriction on perspiration is due in large to the fact that we live and work in unnatural climate controlled environments. While our ancestors labored physically, we are often found behind computers, sitting at desks, and meeting in board rooms. This lack of activity greatly reduces our body's ability to excrete waste material via perspiration. Perspiration traditionally occurs when we are in warm climates or exert ourselves physically.

People who suffer from various forms of toxicant induced illnesses may find one of two phenomena. Some may sweat profusely as the body tries to rid itself of the toxicants within. This often takes the form of night sweats, regular profuse sweating, or even "panic attacks" in which the individual sufferers sudden unexplained onset of sweats and tremors.

To the opposite extreme, some people with toxicant induced illnesses find they cannot sweat it all. This may be due to lack of adequate nutrients as a result of deranged mineral transport or toxicant induced damage to the central nervous system. In either case, it is essential to attempt to assist the body to reduce toxicant burden through appropriate sweating as the skin is the body's largest organ and therefore the most efficient at eliminating toxicants. In addition, eliminating body burden via the skin avoids stress and damage to the colon and bladder as they become overloaded with elimination.

Some say that an hour in the sauna is as effective as taking a chelator, such as DMSA, for a day to remove heavy metals. Many environmental doctors recommend sauna as a part of therapy. For example, Dr. Rea's clinic, "The Environmental Health Center Dallas" includes sauna therapy as a part of the regular treatment protocol. \

There are two types of saunas: far infra red (FIR) and traditional electrically heated rock saunas. Traditional electrically heated rock saunas work by heating the air in a small sauna room to an average temperature of 160 - 185°F. The bather sits in the sauna for ten to fifteen minutes in the warm air to induce sweating. Most gyms use this type of sauna, though members often engage in the "more is better" mentality by turning the heat up too high. When the heat is too high it limits the time one can sit in the sauna without ill effects and also dries the skin which is detrimental to the purpose of taking a sauna. The idea is to get a slow, pouring sweat that rolls off the body taking the toxicants with it. A towel may be used to wipe every so often and a brief shower every fifteen minutes helps to reduce the ability of excreted toxicants to reabsorb through the skin. The sauna can be used as long as comfortable. Many experienced sauna bathers sauna for an hour or two a day. Most EI doctor's recommend half an hour a day.

FIR saunas heat the individual rather than the air in the room, much like a microwave heats the food inside it through radio waves rather than the air. Many feel that FIR sauna's are more beneficial as they can induce sweating at a much lower room temperature which makes it more comfortable for the bather as the cooler air is easier to breathe. Most FIR sauna's do the job efficiently at 110 - 125°F. Proponents against FIR sauna's claim that they heat unevenly because only the side of the body closest to the heater is warmed and this is detrimental to overall detoxification as it allows the toxicants to move about the body rather than being removed. This is counter productive in cases of heavy metal toxicity.

It is probably beneficial to give both types of sauna a try at a public gym to determine which you prefer. If you are unable to use a public sauna or purchase one of your own there are other ways to sweat. A good hot and steamy shower for as long as you can tolerate will heat up the body. Closing the windows, turning off the vents, and using a space heater in the bathroom in winter months will all aid in heating the room and your body. After heating up in the shower wrap yourself in a warm blanket to sweat. Doing this two or three times is quite effective. If a tub is available, another alternative is to take a bath as hot as tolerable. The idea, of course, is to induce sweating.

As with all sauna treatments it is essential to take a complete shower afterwards to remove the toxicants eliminated from the skin so they don't reabsorb. Happy sweating!

Copyrighted © 2007 Lourdes Salvador

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Scientific Studies: Do Litigants Malinger?

The year in research began on a sour note with a study that appeared in The Journal of Psychosomatic Research entitled "MMPI-2 validity, clinical and content scales, and the Fake Bad Scale for personal injury litigants claiming idiopathic environmental intolerance (IEI)" (Staudenmayer & Phillips, 2007). The journal name says it all.

The researchers attempted to prove that litigants who suffer IEI are psychosomatic through the use of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory 2 (MMPI-2), which is a personality test that was administered to 50 female and 20 male personal injury litigants alleging IEI. The subjected were said to "allege" IEI. The study is inconclusive if these subjects were not medically diagnosed with IEI, multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), or another environmental illness (EI). Perhaps the finding that they were psychosomatic had to do with the fact that they were not true sufferers of IEI or EI at all. Who diagnosed these subjects with IEI? How long had they suffered IEI? Were they under treatment for IEI by a qualified environmental medicine specialist? Alleging IEI and being diagnosed with IEI are vastly different. One who is not diagnosed certainly may allege but that does not reflect appropriately on properly diagnosed subjects though that seems the implication.

The researchers reported results stating "the validity scales indicated no over reporting of psychopathology" (Staudenmayer & Phillips, 2007). Perhaps this is simply because IEI is not a psychological disorder. The MMPI-2 has many criticisms including "helping to create and perpetuate the oppressive groupthink of mid-century corporate capitalism" (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, 2006), the fact that "ethical use of psychological tests means that results must be interpreted in the context of other information about the individual, i.e., personal history, reason for assessment, the intended uses of the report about the results, who made the referral for assessment" (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, 2006), and the mistaken belief that "the tests results are infallible, can stand on their own in isolation from other information about the test taker" (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, 2006).

It appears this result confirmed the researches hypothesis that IEI litigants are malingering as they do not recognize their own psychopathology. What fails to be addressed is that any psychopathology that exists may simply be comorbid and completely unrelated to IEI. The overriding question again seems to be that persons who allege IEI are not the same as persons who are diagnosed with IEI.

The study continues to report "half of the cases had elevated scores on validity scales suggesting defensiveness" (Staudenmayer & Phillips, 2007). Half is not a statistically significant finding yet the study concludes, in part, that "idiopathic environmental intolerance litigants are more defensive about expressing psychopathology (Staudenmayer & Phillips, 2007). It would seem any litigant would be defensive, especially one who was injured severely enough to require litigation. An amputee would also be quite defensive when taking the stand to litigate against the state's negligence in repairing a step that cost him his leg. Why would someone who is chemically injured by another's negligence feel any less defensive?

A more appropriate study would have compared the scores of IEI litigants to the scores of litigants suffering other damages to determine if the scores of the IEI litigants were truly higher than that of any other personal injury litigant. Such a study would have provided more factual, scientifically based findings.

The researches also reported that a large number of subjects who had elevations on the Fake Bad Scale (FBS) suggesting over reporting of unauthenticated symptoms. A study by Butcher et al (2003) found that "the scale is likely to classify an unacceptably large number of individuals who are experiencing genuine psychological distress as malingerers. It is recommended that the FBS not be used in clinical settings nor should it be used during disability evaluations to determine malingering." How then was it determined the symptoms were unauthenticated?

A scale is not a blood test, a brain scan, a urinalysis, or other medical test. A mere scale and the researchers preconceived belief that IEI is not a real physiological illness seems the likely answer, along with a misperception that the MMPI-2 and FBS are valid measures. If that was the case then cancer victims, stroke victims, heart disease patients, and many other physiological disorders would also show large elevations on the FBS. Had any of these patients been seen and diagnosed by a qualified environmental medicine specialist trained to identify IEI and other environmental illnesses? It seems this study was rigged for the results the researchers wanted from the beginning. The researchers apparently never considered that IEI might be a real illness.

The primary criticism of Staudenmayer & Phillips research is the "assumption" made that the litigants were malingering. First of all, that assumption is saying that as much as 16% of civilians and 33% of Gulf War Veterans suffering with conditions such as MCS are malingering (Meggs et al, 1996; Gibson, 2005). That number is too large for malingerers. Surely a few psychopaths would malinger, but not 33% of the population!

The next problem is the test used is not designed to eliminate confounding variables such as "real" reasons for the insistence of the litigants. It is only designed to find indications, though not proof, of malingering. Anyone who was in the shoes of being sick and injured by a defendant's negligence would be insistent in the face of disbelief, if not defensive.

EI patients want answers and want to get well (Koch, 2004; Gibson et al, 2005; Gibson et al, 1994). One would have to be a true psychopath to have given up his home, life, business/career, and future to malinger. Why? For what benefit is malingering? I can see it if one has a large trust or insurance plan that pays out upon disability and will support lavish living in luxury for the rest of his/her days. I can see it if one has a spouse who will continue to bring in income while the malingerer stays home playing and enjoying life. However, EI is quite a different reality.

Most with EI slowly lose everything in their lives including friends, family, credibility, health, housing, and employment. In addition, even if they have a supportive spouse who will look after them, they often react to their own homes. What an EI wants and needs in a home is not a big, luxurious mansion. Rather, they need a simple, stripped down, lack of amenities home that does not make them ill. For many this becomes a tent or a vehicle. Unable to go out without becoming very ill they often become isolated, alone, and suffer greatly.

They are not out at the movies enjoying their disability and munching on Bon Bons. Quite to the contrary, many are denied disability and those who are able to obtain it are too sick to go out and have fun. Why would someone malinger for a life like that? Malingering is contradictory to what they ask for. Most only want clean, safe air to breathe. Many report they had successful, professional careers prior to becoming ill and reported that they would happily resume their old lives if they found relief from their EI (Koch, 2004; Gibson et al, 2005; Gibson et al, 1994).

EI could more easily be misconstrued for attention seeking. But then I have to wonder, as a sane human being and a professional in the helping profession, would it not be easier to get attention by acting out? Say yelling or moving and dancing about in an unusual manner with no logical reason? Or perhaps one could gain attention by buying a fancy sports car. One could do that and still hold a job. One could do that and still have a home. One could do that and still go out to dinner with friends, catch a movie, and attend social gatherings. It seems an awful far fetch to give up the basic constituents of life for mere attention. Actually, it's contradictory!

From a personal perspective, the attention EI's often get is highly undesired. They receive stares when they have a respirator on, unwanted questions, strange and/or disdainful looks, and hurtful comments. They want that all to go away so they can be another face in the crowd and enjoy life again. It is contradictory then that they would malinger for attention or any other purpose. The only attention they long for is someone who would just listen, give a "safe" hug, believe in them, understand and appreciate the difficulties they am facing, and perhaps help them to find some real solutions.

But then who am I to say? According to Staudenmayer and Phillips I'm just a malingerer writing self-serving and defensive articles.


Butcher, JN, Arbisi, PA, Atlis, MM, & McNulty, JL (2003). The construct validity of the Lees-Haley Fake Bad Scale. Does this scale measure somatic malingering and feigned emotional distress? Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology. 18(5), 473-85.

Gibson, P (2005). Understanding & accommodating people with multiple chemical sensitivity in everyday living. Houston, TX: Independent Living Research Utilization.

Gibson, PR, Placek, E, Lane, J, Brohimer, SO, & Earehart Lovelace, AC (2005). Disability induced identity changes in persons with multiple chemical sensitivity. Qualitative Health Research. 15:4, 1-23.

Gibson, PR, Cheavens, J, & Warren, ML (1994). Chemical injury chemical sensitivity and life disruption. James Madison University.

Koch, L (2004). Multiple chemical sensitivity and rehabilitation planning implications. Kent State University Center for Disability Studies.

Meggs WJ, Dunn KA, Bloch RM, Goodman PE, Davidoff AL (1996). Prevalence and nature of allergy and chemical sensitivity in the general population. Archives of Environmental Health. 51(4):275-82.

Minnesota multiphasic personality inventory (2006). Wikipedia. St. Petersburg: Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Retrieved January 10, 2007, from:

Staudenmayer, H & Phillips, S (2007). MMPI-2 validity, clinical and content scales, and the Fake Bad Scale for personal injury litigants claiming idiopathic environmental intolerance (IEI). Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 62(1), 61-72.

Copyrighted © 2007 Lourdes Salvador

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Environmental Refugees: The New "Homeless"

The environmentally ill are fast becoming the “new homeless”. With the ever increasing amount of toxic substances used in and around homes, many environmentally ill persons find themselves unable to tolerate living in traditional housing. It soon becomes a struggle in which safe housing is desperately sought, but often unavailable. Victims may find they are forced to camp outside or dwell in vehicles.

A few issues of concern include new construction, pesticide spraying by neighbors, plug-in use by attached neighbors, nearby traffic fumes, neighbors laundry fumes, remodeling or new painting, gas heating, gas appliances, new carpets, prior pesticide application, prior plug-in use in the home, proximity to agriculture, proximity to industry, neighbors wood smoke, nearby electric line or transformer, nearby golf courses (heavily sprayed), neighbors who smoke, mold/mildew, nearby airports (jet fumes), prior use of incense, prior use of aromatherapy, and lead, radon, and asbestos levels. Actually these things should be of concern to everyone who is seeking housing, not just the environmentally ill. Many scientific studies have shown the ill effects these common things have on human health.

The environmentally ill still have the larger challenge. By this list alone, it is obvious few housing options are open to them. Often moves must take place within 30 - 45 days, yet that is insufficient time to locate a suitable home with so many restrictions. Adding to this challenge, discrimination by landlords who view the disabled as problem tenants must be overcome. While the environmentally ill must make their needs known so there is no danger of making a huge mistake both financially and health wise, there is also the concern that the mere mention of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), asthma, or disability will hinder any chance of securing a dwelling. Despite this, few would be likely to move again once a suitable rental is found. Quite to the contrary, most environmentally ill patients go the extra mile to maintain their home.

The cost of housing can be daunting too. The types of housing most suitable to the environmentally ill person are generally the more isolated homes & single unit structures in remote areas that add to the price paid. Subsisting on failing work attempts and/or disability often pushes these properties out of financial reach. Prospective landlords may also worry a disabled person will fail to pay the rent, though once on disability the income is steady and a budget is kept.

Difficulty finding a new home is inevitable. However, there are ways to circumvent problems, such as looking early and not waiting until the last minute. If you have environmental illness, write down what your needs are in a list for your realtor or landlord. Ask landlords to include “no spraying” and other clauses in the lease so you have some legal protection when they decide there is a flea problem a month later and you need to ensure that the safest alternatives are used to control the infestation. And most importantly be prepared with a backup plan in case you fail to find a residence or move into a residence that is too toxic for you to stay. A single walk-though is not sufficient to determine safety of a home. Chronic low-level exposures could set in a few days after moving and create a downward spiral requiring immediate relief via escaping the home. Have provisions packed in the car in case you must make an escape. Be prepared, anticipate problems, and have a backup plan in place and your move should go as smooth as possible.

If you are a landlord or seller, be patient with questions and give truthful answers about your property. Working together with your tenants can make a happy and profitable situation for you both. Environmentally ill patients often improve dramatically upon finding safe housing and are a wealth of information about product safety that could prevent unexpected injury to you and your family.

Copyrighted © 2007 Lourdes Salvador

Monday, April 16, 2007

It's All in Your Head! How Valid is Mind Over Matter?

If the adage "mind over matter" is unequivocally true I would be able to fly with my bare arms. It is mind over matter right? So if I believe I can fly then I can fly! Great! I head off to the nearest tall building psyched up to fly. However when I jump off the top of the roof believing I can fly most reasonable people would agree an ambulance would be summoned to take me to the ER and later the psych ward to treat my "psychosis" if I was lucky enough to survive the fall.

Yet many people believe in "mind over matter". Chemicals only make us ill because we believe they will make us ill. Right? Before you say I've taken this example to the extreme bear in mind that was my intent. I'm a critical thinker, love a good challenge, and refuse to buy into anything based on an appeal to popularity. It is my belief that the majority of people take the adage of mind over matter far too seriously and to the opposite extreme of believing the mind is powerful enough to do anything. Great! Save me! I'm jumping and I can fly! Okay, that's taking it too far but where do we draw the line? Does stinking thinking make us sick or does our health impact our mind and what do we do about it?

As someone who suffered mercury poisoning that went undiagnosed for years I spent much time researching my symptoms and talking to anyone who would listen in the hopes of figuring out why I was becoming increasing more ill. Some felt I was seeking attention or suffered physical pain from a poor attitude. Often was told to "relax a little", "go to church", or "take yoga". Not only were these well-meaning comments inappropriate, ill placed, and infuriating but the people who said them did not know for a fact that I did not already go to church or participate in yoga! All they did was add to the emotional stress my illness already caused by invalidating my feelings and efforts to find out what was causing my ill health. The fact of the matter was I was suffering from mercury poisoning and upon finally being properly diagnosed and treated I made a full recovery with the exception of a manifestation of my toxic injury known, among other names, as MCS.

False hope thorough pretending a condition does not exist is a recipe for ignoring important symptoms rather than seeking medical attention and addressing important treatable symptoms in crucial situations. One can easily be blinded into believing "it's all in your head" and suffer damage or death as a result. "No matter what is said about mind over matter, an ill-cared-for body cannot be meditated away" (Reece, 2006).

Don't get me wrong. I do see some value in the adage of mind over matter. I believe that keeping a positive outlook during dark times instills hope and determination to continue against the odds. What exasperates me is a person who believes a physical illness is caused by a poor attitude. Surely a newborn's outlook on life could not be the cause of infantile illness! Attitudes can become poor even though they are not poor at the onset of an illness as one is feeling pain and fatigue from a chronic illness, losing money from inability to work, and finding no answers. I know for a fact I had a positive attitude and everything was going for me in my life when I took ill so I was not being "punished by God" as many believed.

Despite this a person's state of mind can impact health to some extent (Edwards, 2004). I strongly believe a positive mindset can help one overcome obstacles and stressful situations. However a positive attitude will not create the answers, stop impact from a fall, or reverse a poisoning. Only well thought out actions, planning, and appropriate and timely treatments can do that. Illness creates stress on the body and on the mind (Anderson, 2005). The question is which comes first? Is it the chicken or the egg? Does the illness cause the mindset or does the mindset cause the illness? I am a firm believer that the illness often causes the mindset. It is natural and normal to feel stress and be discouraged when one is losing their livelihood for unexplained reasons. "Stress is a component of every illness" (Roberts, 2002).

On the flip side I believe recovery can be impaired by mindset. "What goes on in the body has a definite effect on the spiritual, just as what goes on in our spiritual being does affect us physically" (Smith, ND). A person who does not have hope will not seek help and may resign themselves to illness and death. "A balance between an individual's coping skills and his or her stress level can also be the tipping point of whether one is more susceptible to illness or not" (Upward Quest Health, 1997 – 2006). Of course when one voraciously seeks answers with great hope she is subject to being labeled as obsessive about her illness. However "without hope we have nothing" (Doyle, 2005).

Though some may disagree I stand firm that Americans take mind over matter entirely too seriously even to the point of placing so much emphasis on the mind that an emphasis on a solution is lost. No reasonable man would swallow a box of rat poison or jump off the top of a building and not become ill or injured no matter what his beliefs or how strong his mind is. It is therefore crucial that helping professionals address issues of the mind in physical illness carefully. Care should be taken not to discredit physical problems and blame illness entirely on psyche. A good emphasis would be on strengthening the mind and coping mechanisms as a complementary treatment to traditional medical interventions to prevent further problems. The goal should be to combine approaches for the most effective treatment.


Anderson, J. (2005). Nutrition and Aging. Retrieved April 19, 2006, from:

Doyle, A. (2005). Without Hope We Have Nothing. Retrieved April 19, 2006 from:

Edwards, L. (2004). Mind-Body-Spirituality and Healthy Interactions. The Rose & Croix Journal, 1. Retrieved April 19,
2006, from:

Reece, K. (2006). The Discipline of Wicca. Adult Pagan Essay Series. Retrieved April 19, 2006, from:

Roberts, J. (2002). Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Retrieved April 19, 2006, from:

Smith, B. (ND). Illness and Life View. Retrieved April 19, 2006 from:

Copyrighted © 2007 Lourdes Salvador

Sunday, April 15, 2007

MCS America Opens Logo Shop for Fundraising and Awareness

The official opening of the MCS America Logo Shop has arrived! There are some good items here that can be used for May Awareness activities as well as year round information. Wear one of these shirts and be ready to answer questions about MCS!

Visit the logo shop at:

Colorado Proclaims May as MCS Awareness and Education Month

May has been proclaimed MCS Awareness and Education Month in Colorado!

Scientific studies estimate that 16% of the population suffers with some level of sensitivity to chemicals such as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), which is also known as a toxic injury of chemical origin. MCS affects both genders, all races, all income levels, all education levels and anyone could be permanently and totally disabled by it.

MCS is thought to be caused by chronic low level chemical exposures or an acute toxic exposure to a contaminant such as pesticide, carbon monoxide, an number of industrial chemicals, and "sick" buildings contaminated by mold and other volatile organic compounds with poor ventilation. Once affected, victims suffer permanent irreversible damage that causes a myriad of symptoms in multiple body organs and ranges from seizures and respiratory difficulty to headache, sore throat, asthma like symptoms, and more.

This is particularly significant when one considers that MCS impacts an estimated 16% of the population as opposed to 6% who are affected by diabetes, which most Americans are familiar with; costing billions in treatments, lost income due to missing work and absenteeism from school. No one is immune to developing MCS. All it takes is one accident. Dr. Martin Pall, PhD of Washington State University Department of Molecular Biosciences, regards MCS as being related to other multi-system diesases including chronic fatigue syndrome, which was recently recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who cites chemcial sensitivity as a symptom of chronic fatigue. MCS substantially limits the ability of it's victims to live normal lives, work, attend school, shop, and socialize as a myriad of common items generally recognized as safe can cause anything from discomfort to life threatening reactions. These items include fragrances found in perfumes, lotions, soaps, and laundry products as well as cleaners, pesticides, diesel, news print, new carpets, and many other items encountered in day to day living.

MCS patients need more qualified medical care, increased access to public facilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and support from family and friends once afflicted. While doctors need additional training and scientists need more funding for addional research into the cause of MCS. This is truly a crisis situation! MCS affects a persons ability to earn a living, travel, socialize, and function in our modern world in which chemicals and fragrances are impossible to avoid.

MCS America would like to formally thank Goveronor Bill Ritter and the people of Colorado for recognizing this important occassion!

Blog Archive