Chemical sensitivity has many guises, as seen in the case here. A young Argen-tinian man and his wife flew all the way to London from a con-tinental European capital to consult me. He had left Argentina six months earlier to work in an abattoir under contract for three years.
He presented with itchy, red, pustular or bumpy lesions-rather like nettle rash-on the face, arms, legs, scalp and groins. He also had severe muscle and joint pain. These symptoms had started a month after beginning his new job. Before that, he was a normal healthy 26-year-old.
Sent to the local hospital for tropical diseases by the abattoir's doctor, he was clinically diagnosed with leprosy, a disease that affects the nerves and skin. I tested his affected skin areas with pinpricks, and warm and cold spoons, but did not find the expected anaesthesia. His muscle and joint pain also did not fit with leprosy. Moreover, the lesions of leprosy avoid the warmer parts of the skin such as the scalp and groins, yet this patient had lesions in those areas, too.
His sole job was to skin sheep carcasses: he would hold the suspend-ed carcass by the wool against his body while he skinned off their pelts. This was surprising as the country in which he was now working is neither sheep-producing nor mutton-consum-ing. He then told me that the sheep were transported to the abattoir by hauliers from different parts of the EU, and that an enormous food-manufacturing company was buying all of the mutton to produce a huge variety of ready-made meals for an extensive list of supermarkets that can be found in most EU countries.
Indeed, the company prepares Chinese, Indian, Thai, Malaysian and Vietnamese dishes as well as many of the well-known European 'classics' such as Irish stew, shepherd's pie, noisettes d'agneau chasseur and moussaka. The microwaveable ready-meals are then marketed by the supermarkets under their own labels.
It then occurred to me that this might be a case of chemical hyper-sensitivity to sheep dip, the residues of which were still clinging to the wool and skin of the carcasses. I had him undergo eight chemical-sensitivity laboratory blood tests that would give a reliable indication of the degree of his sensitivity to specific agents, and
I selected seven of the usual suspects (used worldwide in sheep dips) as well as sheep lanolin:
1 Cypermethrin (fast-acting, highly neurotoxic to insects; lethal to fish and bees)
2 Diazinon (a restricted-use organo-phosphate; lethal to fleas and ticks as well as birds)
3 Dichlorvos (lethal to certain insects, mites and bedbugs)
4 Mevinphos (an insecticide known for its acute oral and dermal toxicity, and adverse effects in humans, other mammals, aquatic and bird species, and insects)
5 Permethrin (a neurotoxic mite- and insect-killer that is also lethal to mice and cats (many cats die each year after being given flea treatment intended for dogs, or by contact with recently treated dogs)
6 Pyrethrins (neurotoxic to insects, and harmful to fish, birds and mammals, including humans; studies suggest a link between maternal pyrethrin use and autism in children: mothers of autistic children are twice as likely to have washed a pet dog with a flea shampoo containing pyrethrin while pregnant (www.newscientist.com/ article/dn13905-insecticides-in-pet-shampoo-may-trigger-autism.html)
7 Tetrachlorvinphos (a restricted-use organophosphate lethal to fleas and ticks, as well as birds).
Given these chemicals persisting on the outside of the carcasses, goodness knows what residues there may be on the inside-in the meat we consume.
The patient's results indicated that he was sensitive to 2 and 7, as well as to lanolin, and that he also had a very pronounced sensitivity to 1 and 4.
The chilling sequel to this case is that, after receiving copies of the patient's laboratory reports, the company doctors concurred with my diagnosis of chemical hypersensi-tivity and agreed that it wasn't leprosy. Yet, once the abattoir andthe mega-meat industry behind it were notified, massive pressure was evidently put on the government of the country concerned, which then reportedly threatened to cut off subsidies to the hospital unless it reverted to the original diagnosis of leprosy and insisted that the man be sent back to Argentina. It made it clear that his work visa would also be cancelled. In fact, this is precisely what happened.
Harald Gaier, a registered naturopath, osteopath, homeopath and herbalist, practises at The Allergy and Nutrition Clinic, 22 Harley Street, London, and the Irish Centre of Integrated Medicine, Co. Kildare ( www.drgaier.com ).
Odd signs of chemical sensitivity
- Acute abdominal pain
- Asthma, headache and rash
- Chronic fatigue and weakness
- Concentration and memory loss
- Muscle and joint pain
- Numbness, tingling and twitching
- Sore eyes, ears, nose and throat
- Hypersensitivity to smells
- Intolerance of loud noises
- Impaired balance, coordination and concentration.