Mold & Environmental Illness
......with Lisa Nagy M.D.
Lisa Lavine Nagy M.D. graduated Magna Cum Laude from The University of Pennsylvania and then from Cornell Medical College in 1986. After a surgical internship she completed Emergency Medicine residency at Metropolitan Hospital in NYC and practiced in Los Angeles until becoming severely ill (Addison’s Disease, Mitochondrial Myopathy, Dysautonomia) –as a result of a complex medical condition known as Chemical Sensitivity or Environmental Illness.
Her story of survival and journey of discovery which led her to determine what had made her have such severe symptoms inspired ABC’s ‘Nightline’ to interview her this year and many newspapers and magazines to feature her recovery. In her case it was due to toxic mold and in others it is due to pesticide or chemical exposure. She learned about the field of Environmental Medicine and it’s focus on finding the causes of disease including genetic, hormonal, nutritional, allergic, and environmental factors.
She is now president of Preventive and Environmental Health Alliance which is a group focused on educating medical students, doctors, the AMA, congress and the public and assists patients to find help nationwide. Listening to physicians and other people who have developed severe Environmental Illness is the first step towards helping the 75 million people in the country with various health issues, including autoimmunity, related to their environments. Her website is www.EnvironmentalMedicineInfo.com
Tuesday, September 1st, 2009:
The Vineyard is a Safe Haven for those with Environmental Sensitivities
by Lisa Nagy, M.D,
Originally published in Island Inspiration Magazine, Summer 2009. This publication is based in Vineyard Haven, MA, where Dr. Nagy has recently set up a practice.
Many famous and not so famous people end up on the island because they feel well here. Their energy level is higher and their mood improved. One reason for this is the good air quality and lack of ozone and car exhaust. People who know they are Environmentally Sensitive (having Chemical Sensitivity) feel better in a clean air environment and therefore gravitate to islands naturally.
People may have no idea that this is why they move here. The figures now are that 4% of the population is disabled by CS (Chemical Sensitivity), 15% know they are somewhat sensitive and 40% may be affected but have no idea they are – and have fatigue, anxiety, memory loss and need psychiatric medications to cope with the effects of their cells struggling to survive. Dislike of perfumes, air fresheners, cigarettes, is very common to a mild degree in most (75% of) women in society these days and less –so men (15%).
What causes the problem? Oftentimes it is a moldy home or basement or other chemically toxic exposure like pesticide or formaldehyde in new kitchen cabinets that abruptly make someone become intolerant of many chemical smells in everyday life.
As a Cornell Medical College trained physician I almost didn’t survive my own exposure to toxigenic mold. In my case it was probably the huge aquarium built into my California home that did it 10 years ago. I saw dozens of doctors. I developed adrenal insufficiency along with my dog and husband and many other problems that began to look like Lou Gehrig’s. I do not know how lay people could possibly figure all of this out? How could they find the cause of their illness to get treatment early enough to prevent irreversible damage? -- They won’t. So now, I help those who are trying to struggle to survive their own exposure and health problems and am starting a practice on the island. First I am trying to fix a national problem – lack of acknowledgement by traditional medicine that these conditions are real and not in our heads.
In the past year I have told my story on Nightline and in numerous national newspapers of having been transformed from an almost dead, pathetic individual, into a national exemplar for the effectiveness of treatment methods of environmental medicine. I have spoken to committees at the American Medical Association, Institute of Medicine on Women’s Health Research, congressional leaders, and was just asked to be a delegate at the Massachusetts Medical Society. Hopefully a resolution I just wrote will have passed on recognizing these conditions like chronic fatigue, Gulf War Syndrome and Chemical Sensitivity and the group will teach their doctors about these and also the very mild sensitivities we all get and what they mean.
Basically as our hormones decline with age and our exposures add up from various houses and jobs in our life we may develop headaches – especially to red wine and newspapers, perfumes, fabric softeners and detergents, diesel exhaust. We can become depressed from a moldy home (Brown University, Shanessa) develop rashes, tremors, ADD, food allergies – even autism (Kilburn unpublished study). Who doesn’t have a few of these problems now-a-days? Really none of us is unaffected – we are all on the scale from 1 to 10 – no one is really a zero when it comes to environmental influence on our health.
I have seen many people who cannot work thus becoming outcasts of society. We often develop severe psychological problems if we are not treated early for environmental exposure. What I have learned is that it is quite a revolutionary concept – that our mental health is a product of our genetics and our environmental exposures. The mentally ill are fixable in large part if you can figure out when and why they fell apart. Quick relief can be found in hormone replacement, amino acid supplements - which stabilizes our neurotransmitters, and addressing nutritional deficiencies as well. Allergy treatment and sauna are mainstays of treatment along with oxygen for a few weeks if indicated.
The island is a perfect place for us all to live with the exception of the mold! Living on an island surrounded by the beautiful ocean is an asset, but also keeps us living with a lot of moisture, increasing the percentage of mold in our homes and work places. This is one of the biggest issues and least discussed. On the mainland and inner cities mold is the cause of about 50% of the patients who frequent environmental clinics. On the Vineyard, it is probably in 90% of the affected individuals.
Ways we can help ourselves are; Keep the house dehumidified to below 50% in the summer at least half of each day or night to prevent books, papers, clothing from molding. Put a dehumidifier in your closet. Get rid of carpeting -- it is home for mold. Use this book, "Prescriptions for a Healthy House", to select non toxic materials to build with. Gut the basement if it is moldy and even add gutters and or a French drain around the home so that the basement stays dry. Have me come over and do mold plates or hire a more expensive expert – but do cultures and find out your genus and species (P and K microbiology). Just counting the numbers of colonies compared to outside (where it should be higher than your home) can give you clues to a problem.
Do not rip out moldy materials like dry wall the wrong way – or yourself. You can contaminate the entire home and ruin it if you drag spores through your clean space. Do not visit people in moldy buildings – it is bad for your health and will contaminate your clothing with potential toxins. These toxins are studied mostly by the army because they are used as agents of bioterrorism in wartime! They can lead to severe health problems and in large amounts – especially in corn – can kill.
You can see an environmental physician (http://www.aaem.com/) to find help for your ailments and call me with your questions. Donations very welcome! For more on how to detoxify and the data on these conditions see my Cleveland Clinic lecture www.cchs.net/wellness/grandrounds.asp and the web site below. It is a learning experience – and you are in charge of your health!
Please visit again soon for more articles from Dr. Nagy and the Environmental Health Alliance