Chemical Intolerance Investigated.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Duff, Katherine
Pub Date: 02/01/2012
Publication: Name: Townsend Letter Publisher: The Townsend Letter Group Audience: General; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 The Townsend Letter Group ISSN: 1940-5464
Issue: Date: Feb-March, 2012 Source Issue: 343-344
Topic: NamedWork: They're Poisoning Us! From the Gulf War to The Gulf of Mexico: An Investigative Report (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Mann, Arnold
Accession Number: 282825231
Full Text: They're Poisoning Us! From the Gulf War to The Gulf of Mexico: An Investigative Report by Arnold Mann

34th Street Press, Los Angeles, California;

Softbound; [C] 2011; $19.95; 284 pp.

What can an investigative reporter contribute to the discussion of chemical sensitivity? In the case of reporter Arnold Mann and his book They're Poisoning Us!, plenty, as it turns out. In this book, we are shown a picture of this cast-off illness through its history, interviews with researchers and treating physicians, the events that continue to add to those affected, and the many levers of power that control the issue.

Mann came upon this subject while researching an article that he was writing for Time magazine. The topic was the emerging problem of sick building syndrome and mold, which took him to a large cluster in an airline reservation office in Texas. It was here he learned the true scope of the problem that the sick were coping with and the resulting chemical sensitivity that for many would end up dictating their lives.

The historical perspective takes the reader back to the work of Theron Randolph, in the 1950s, who was the pioneer in identifying and treating chemical sensitivity. An allergist with an impeccable pedigree, he soon found himself at odds with other allergists when he questioned the reliability of allergy testing and suggested that the immune connection is not all there was. As his research continued, he was ostracized by the medical community and attacked by commercial interests, but he did not give up and is now regarded as the father of environmental medicine.

Mann's investigative skills are evident in his recognition of Dr. Eloise Kailin's early work on chemical sensitivity. In the 1960s, she conducted double-blind studies on some of her patients that demonstrated a neurological origin for chemical sensitivity. Unfortunately, her efforts to train other doctors went nowhere, and her published studies were ignored. Of the many books written about chemical sensitivity, Mann's is the first that I am aware of to credit Kailin for her significant contribution.

There are few researchers and treating physicians working on chemical sensitivity, but against great odds they are developing a body of work that is offering answers and hope. It took decades for anyone to build on the work of Kailin's brain connection to chemical sensitivity, and the first to do so was Dr. William Meggs. His worked focused on neurogenic inflammation and airway remodeling. Another who has made great strides is Dr. Claudia Miller, who saw new chemical sensitivities in sickened Gulf War veterans. Her work has led her to rename chemical sensitivity toxicant-induced loss of tolerance (TILT), as this term better describes the condition and its onset. She also developed a screening questionnaire used by physicians to assess chemically intolerant patients. This peer-reviewed tool is called the QEESI (quick environmental exposure and sensitivity inventory). She has made it available for free at her website:

The toxic battlefield of the first Gulf War brought a leap in funding and research that would benefit the understanding of chemical intolerance. Dr. Robert Haley has been foremost in this research. Under a mandate from Congress in 2005, Haley's work was funded and he was freed from any requirement of researching stress as the cause of the illnesses, the preferred diagnosis. Haley, an epidemiologist, designed most comprehensive studies that eventually led the once-skeptical doctor to conclude that, yes, the veterans' many symptoms were due to wartime exposures, and these soldiers' brains are showing abnormalities.

This marvelous research is demonstrating a new paradigm in medicine - and which has a preexisting set of enemies. Just as Dr. Haley saw his contract cancelled and his funding stopped, other researchers have had funding proposals denied. The manner in which this is done to these individuals is woven through their interviews. Whether a doctor is threatened with removal from insurance company provider lists, researchers are denied funding, or colleagues attack outright, chemicals in our society have powerful defenders who place liability concerns over public health. In this book, Arnold Mann gets it. Our government, medical associations, employers, property owners, and insurance companies have combined to become a formidable foe for individuals whose lives have been devastated by illness and poverty. In this atmosphere, the best many can hope for is Social Security disability benefits approved under a mental illness diagnosis.

Mann does not leave us without hope, though. He interviews physicians who are currently treating and helping chemically intolerant patients. If one puts together his interviews with Drs. William Rea, Kaye Kilburn, Meryl Nass, and Grace Ziem, it is easy to see that there are common modalities. Most practitioners agree that avoidance and detoxification are important; some are looking into new treatments as well. Some have websites that can help the sick person, such as Dr. Ziem's:

I don't know how many more decades of newspaper articles about the curious cases of people living in avoidance of chemicals, complete with the catfight among the experts, will continue to entertain the readership. And how many more disasters such the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will we tolerate, dumping ever more victims onto the pile only to ignore their illnesses and label them mental cases? The negligence is getting old, and unbelievable. For more and more of us who have been affected or know someone who has, the real question is, what is going on here? That is where this author has taken a giant leap. He has turned over the rocks and found some of the mechanisms that have kept the issue of chemical injury stalled, treatments not covered by insurance companies, and sympathetic doctors frightened. I will save these gems for the reader to discover, for as much as readers may think that they know about the powers that are stopping recognition of the brain damage that can be caused by chemical exposures, Mann reveals even more. Read this book and pass it on. It is long past time to face prevention of chemical intolerances, and compassionate care of those already ill.

"What we are dealing with, researchers insist, is not a psychosomatic phenomenon driven by chemical obsession or an attempt on the part of slackers to get a free ride or profit from a system that encourages litigation. Rather, they say, we are witnessing the emergence of an entirely new disease paradigm, one that has grown as our chemical environment has grown, to take on the proportions of a plague - a plague that has yet to be defined, named, or fully recognized and acknowledged."
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.