Victory over Toxins
By Steven F. Ayre & George Michelsen
When Lieutenant Colonel Robert Wolfertz participated in his Marine Corps unit’s attack on the Iraqis in Kuwait two days before the official start of the Desert Storm ground offensive, he achieved his objective of clearing the way for the 1st Marine Division’s mechanized armor assault.
He appeared to be unscathed. However, long after the shooting stopped he experienced unexplained and intermittent lower-back pain and a foot rash.
Over the following months, his list of complaints grew to include multiple muscle, joint and tendon pains, fatigue, headaches, short-term memory loss and sleeping problems. It was an extreme turn of events for someone who had been in excellent health six months earlier and who had not been hit by a single round of enemy fire.
The colonel later discovered that his symptoms could be the result of exposure to toxins during his tour in the Persian Gulf, including tablets of pyridostigmine bromide (PB) — a purported antidote to chemical nerve agents — an anthrax vaccine and clothes impregnated with pesticide.
He had no idea what was slowly eroding his health until, while appearing before the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses in 1996, he met a doctor who knew of an answer that other physicians he’d seen did not.
“A Constant Improvement”
The doctor told Wolfertz about a detoxification program based on the discoveries of author and humanitarian
“Over the course of 17 days,” he said, “I noticed a constant improvement — until the 17th day, when I felt wonderful. That was 2 1/2 years ago, and I continue to feel wonderful.”
A Marine Reservist who served in the Gulf War had experiences similar to Wolfertz’s. He wore clothes saturated with pesticide and popped his PB tablets daily. He breathed air laden with smoke from oil wells set ablaze by the retreating Iraqis and was also exposed to lindane, a pesticide used to delouse Iraqi prisoners.
His symptoms were also similar to those of Wolfertz, although he additionally began to cough up black sputum, his speech became slurred and he suffered from dizziness and nervousness. He, too, was at a loss over what to do about his symptoms until 1996, when he discovered the same answer as Wolfertz.
Undergoing the same detox program, his symptoms improved by “at least 80 to 90 percent” as a result.1
Another Gulf veteran, whose problems had included such muscle weakness that he could hardly get out of bed, completed the program and wrote, “I feel more energetic. I have no more body aches, joint pain or headaches. I also feel stronger now.”
Seeking an Answer to Toxins
Years before these and other Gulf veterans began struggling with toxic exposure, countless other individuals faced similar situations arising from all manner of circumstances.
Millions of chemical compounds have been released into the environment since the 1960s with no real understanding of the effects created on any of the species on the planet, let alone the trillions of variations these substances form when combined. Today, some 3,000 chemicals are deliberately added to the foods we eat while 700 have been identified in the water we drink.
Of note, only a small percentage of the more than 85,000 chemicals in domestic and commercial use have been tested for toxicity to the human nervous and immune systems.
Some toxins are as ubiquitous and persistent as the agricultural and manufacturing organochlorine pollutants that concern environmentalists and ecologists today, yet have received scant attention in the fight against pollution. Consequently, when individuals sicken or die, nobody has been able to point meaningfully to a continued exposure to minuscule amounts of personal care products or the “pharmacy of drugs” originally prescribed to improve health.
Sources of toxins include pharmaceuticals and even ingredients in personal care products, such as sunscreens and shampoo. In addition to their introduction directly into the bodies of the individuals using them, they can find their way via treated and untreated sewage and rainwater runoff into the environment, where they are absorbed by crops, fish and animals, and thence into humans. (See “Environmental Poisons”.)
Among the victims of toxins was a factory worker in Slovenia who fought her own battle with severe abdominal cramps, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, joint swelling and eruptions of chloracne, a form of acne resulting from exposure to toxic chemicals.
These symptoms plagued her for 16 of the 18 years she was employed at the factory, and during which she rarely wore protective gear. Tests conducted at the University Medical Center of Ljubljana showed high levels of the now-banned chemical PCB, a known carcinogen, in the woman’s fat tissue. PCB was also found in a bluish-green fluid oozing spontaneously from her nipples.
Heavy industrial applications may seem a far cry from the lives of most, but chemical poisoning can also strike closer to home — in fact, in the home, as a 14-year-old girl in New York experienced after her house was treated improperly with the pesticide dieldrin. She began to suffer from headaches, acne and nausea. A DDT metabolite known as DDE, the form the chemical may take from metabolic action, was found in her body.
A 39-year-old athlete in Washington, formerly in excellent health, had all the symptoms of chemical poisoning: fatigue, flu-like symptoms, muscle tiredness and joint pain. Despite eating high-nutrition foods and drinking bottled water, a blood analysis showed very high levels of trichloroethylene (TCE), a carcinogen and nervous system toxin, and TCE metabolites. The toxins came from the water supply in her area, which she soaked up in the three showers she took each day. The poisons were more readily absorbed in the vapors she breathed while taking the showers.
Chemical poisons even reach into the womb. A girl in Ohio was exposed to fumes from a carpet installed in the family home while she was still in her mother’s womb. The family was obliged to vacate the house after three weeks because the fumes were so strong. Samples of the carpet were sent to a laboratory, where they killed test mice within hours. By the time the girl was 6, she was chronically ill, unable to leave home or to perform the kind of rudimentary tasks one would expect of someone her age.