Poisoned by Synthetic Pyrethroid Pesticides by Pat Smith
During the summer of 2003 I began to have headaches. They got more intense and became almost constant. I thought I was tired and promised myself I would take a vacation that fall after my daughter’s wedding. Little did I know I was coming to the end of my career because I was being poisoned every day at my workplace and it would destroy my health.That summer my office was treated twice for mites. I was unaware of any issues with pests and paid little attention to the notices that were sent out to us telling us we had to be out of the office before the applicator arrived. I am convinced there was likely a spill onto the carpet at my desk. I even commented about the musty odor and questioned if someone might have spilled something. It was weeks later when I made the connection between the smell, my health and the dates of the pesticide applications.
It has been a long and twisted journey for me and my family. I started with headaches. Then there were issues with me walking into things. Then there was the fleeting peripheral double vision which made me question if it had really happened or not. There was an episode at work where my head “buzzed” and I felt like I was going to pass out. That event actually made me call our facilities manager and demand that they get the rug cleaned because it was making me sick. Then I got so ill I was stopped in my tracks.
I had an onset of symptoms that were scary. My head was killing me. Noise, smells and light were intolerable. My vision went crazy and it was like watching an old 35mm film with jumping frames. I could not stand to walk. I hugged the wall to make it from my bed to the bathroom. My blood pressure soared. I could not eat and was living on tea and life savers.
I laid on the couch most days with tears running down my face because my head ached so badly. I truly wished I could die. It was weeks before I was able to do anything more than shower and dress.I had significant cognitive issues. I forgot everything. I could read an article over and over because nothing was sticking. I called it my “Teflon brain”. I left water running, burned pans, ignored ringing phones and muddled through the days while my family worried about my health and safety. I had a sudden onset of dementia.
I was so tired yet I could not sleep because of night terrors. A sleep study confirmed that I was waking up all night long and never getting into the deep sleep stages. My whole body started to burn. I had shooting pains, like electric shocks, that started in my toes and over several months rose up my entire body. Meanwhile, my head felt like it was crawling with worms. It was the start of a living hell.
There were issues with my voice fading, nosebleeds, loss of balance and one episode of syncope so severe I landed in the emergency room. The next day I was started on meds to offset the lack of adrenal function. It became clear that my hypothalamic pituitary axis had been damaged. I could not stay hydrated because of the hormone issues. My thyroid function was also affected. My double vision was the result of damage to my cranial nerves. I had no estrogen yet I had endometrial thickening so something was mimicking estrogen in my body. I had years of experience as a nurse but I was treading into some very specialized areas and it was beyond my expertise. It was terrifying to me and to my family.
It has been almost ten years and some of the initial symptoms have lessened, others I have learned to cope with and other new problems have arisen. I have been given multiple diagnoses of auto immune illnesses. I have been on steroids for years. I have constant pain which varies from day to day and even moment to moment. Fatigue is a constant. Sleep is still a problem but it is better.
I have been poked and prodded, tested and retested, hospitalized and have a steady stream of doctors that see me frequently. I feel like Humpty Dumpty with my list of symptoms and my even longer list of diagnoses and there is nobody who knows how to put me back together again.
I always thought that if it was sold it was safe. I was wrong. Pesticides are poorly regulated and not fully tested. Pyrethroids are advertised as being as safe as a marigold flower. Nothing could be further from the truth. Pyrethroids are synthetic versions of the pyrethrins. They are formulated to be more toxic and to be more persistent. The product that poisoned me could not be used in barns with livestock. Why would it ever be allowed in an office? It has a half-life of up to eight months in sunlight. Nobody knows how it would behave inside an office carpet.
Pyrethroids are not safe. They have a very long half-life. They emit some very dangerous products of decomposition including carbon monoxide. They have been found to be most toxic via the inhalation route by researchers yet they are not tested for toxicity via that route. I live every day with the ill effects of a pyrethroid and I can assure you they are not safe.