Dr. Michael Harbut, an environmental toxicologist and Wayne State University faculty member, regularly treats victims of pesticide poisoning at his Royal Oak clinic. He offers the following pointers to those who suspect they may have become ill as a result of exposure to environmental toxins:
• Victims of pesticide poisoning frequently fail to realize the cause of their illness. “People often don’t put two and two together,” he says. Often that’s because many of the symptoms appear flu-like: headache, respiratory problems, nausea, dizziness.
• When people do seek treatment, the medical personnel providing treatment are also likely to make a misdiagnosis. According to Robert Lipsey, a Florida toxicologist who performed a study of the issue for the federal Environmental Protection Agency, only about one doctor in 100 was able to accurately diagnose cases of pesticide poisoning. “People have a very hard time getting the proper diagnosis,” agrees Harbut.
• Because a large number of pesticides are neurotoxins, “cognitive” problems such as memory loss and confusion are fairly common symptoms.
• Cases almost always involve exposure to more than one chemical.
• When seeking help, be wary of clinics that offer unusual remedies such as high colonic treatments. A lot of doctors who have little or no training in the specialty are claiming to be “environmmental physicians,” warns Harbut. Look for physicians who can provide proof that they are board certified in the specialty or work at facilities that belong to the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics.
• Be skeptical of clinics that demand cash payments in advance and offer as treatments products only available through them.
Read Curt Guyette's related stories in this edition:
"Sprayed away" Did calling in an exterminator put Angela Essenmacher's health and home at risk?
"Nontoxic avenger" Former exterminator Steve Tvedten is now an evangelist for nontoxic pest control, and he's willing to share his techniques.
"Home, toxic home" Heidi DeBoer and her family won a court judgment for the pesticide poisoning they experienced in 1995; but they're still suffering from medical problems to this day.