For Those in SF Bay Area
Hi Gracenote, thanks for saying hello and asking others about Skype.
I wonder if any of us are dealing with the environmental issues from this SF Bay area industrial accident along with all the other things ???? Note the bolded part below.
Published Sunday, Feb. 08, 2009
When your nose is your worst enemy: Kathy Rosskopf's ordeal eases – as experts debate what it is
If you find yourself at a fine-dining establishment around the Calaveras County town of Wilseyville and happen to see a grown woman bent over, sniffing the seats, do not be alarmed.
That is just Kathy Rosskopf, back in the world again after a 14-year ordeal with an affliction some have called multiple chemical sensitivity, in which fragrances ranging from perfumes to carpeting to fumes from plastics can send her reeling.
Once cloistered at home to escape offending odors, Rosskopf has finally improved enough to do the "normal" things in life: fill the gas tank, go grocery shopping, attend a friend's wedding or, yes, dine out at a restaurant.
"We stand right outside the (restaurant) door and breathe it in," Rosskopf says of her tentative forays out with her husband, Roland Pesch. "If it's too stinky, we won't go inside. And I sniff the seats because people use detergents to wash their clothes, and I can pick that up. Same with the linen napkins."
Rosskopf, a 60-year-old with a quick wit and self-deprecating humor, knows what people might be thinking.
"It is a strange sight, sniffing seats," she says, "but with this problem, you get used to looking weird in public."
She says vigilance is required to keep her olfactory sense from triggering symptoms – from dizziness and nausea to confusion and exhaustion – with a mere whiff. Rosskopf says her physically debilitating, emotionally wrenching and socially ostracizing condition feels very real to her.
But most major medical organizations – the American College of Physicians; the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – doubt multiple chemical sensitivity even exists. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ruled that, "at present (there is) no medical consensus concerning the definition or nature of this disorder." Many researchers have called the physical symptoms "psychosomatic."
Dr. Mark Grijnsztein, an allergist with the Sutter Medical Group in Sacramento, said he believes patients can, indeed, have reactions to perfume, paint and other irritants.
"They have a baseline condition, such as asthma or bronchial problems," Grijnsztein says. "But people with multiple chemical sensitivity have symptoms that are difficult to define and difficult to prove with tests. It's not that they don't suffer. But I don't know if you can correlate (those symptoms) to a medical exposure."
According to a 2008 article in the Journal of Environmental Health, "No accepted diagnostic physiologic test has been developed, such as complete blood count or antibody levels, which correlates with symptoms. Diagnosis is primarily based on a patient's subjective reports."
All Rosskopf knows is what she feels. She said several doctors failed to help, and it wasn't until she connected with integrative medicine specialist Dr. Beth McDougall of Mill Valley that she received a treatment plan. Rosskopf says it involves a mix of dietary supplements and prescription drugs to deal with the high levels of mercury and lead in her system, among other problems.
Rosskopf and her husband believe her sensitivity can be traced to 1994, when the couple lived in the East Bay community of Crockett.
That summer, an accident at the Unocal oil refinery in nearby Rodeo spewed an estimated 100 tons of the hazardous compound catacarb – a metallic solution used to purify hydrogen – into the air for 16 straight days. It sickened hundreds. (Unocal paid $4.5 million in a settlement to the towns of Rodeo and Crockett.)
"Roland and I both started developing what seemed like colds frequently – runny nose, malaise – and it was continuous," Rosskopf says. "I got an eye infection. My nasal passages felt seared. I had more problems breathing, more huffing and puffing.
"Then the symptoms started increasing. It was confusing. You know your body very well. All of a sudden, these things are happening that you can't explain. I'd feel disoriented, dizzy. I'd get a particular kind of headache that happened after I could smell stuff in the air. Overwhelming fatigue. I'd have to drop in my tracks and go lie down."
Pesch says his more minor symptoms went away in time. Rosskopf, apparently, wasn't so lucky.
In the late 1990s, the couple moved from Crockett to rural Wilseyville. But Rosskopf's symptoms only worsened. Pesch says he knew Rosskopf's sensitivity was physical in nature when – two rooms removed – she was sickened by the smell of plastic woodgrain on a new set of stereo speakers.
"It became impossible for Kathy to be in the house with anything like that," Pesch says, meaning household cleaners, lotions, scented detergents.
Walking down the street became a trial. Anyone wearing cologne or scented antiperspirant made her ill. "It wouldn't take long until I was incapacitated," she says. "I didn't react the same way every time. Sometimes, slurred speech. Sometimes, short-term memory loss. Sometimes, headaches." (Interestingly, she says she has no allergies to animals or flowers and pollen.)
After several years on a strict supplement regimen – and having a dentist remove all her mercury amalgam fillings – Rosskopf reached a point this summer where she could attend a wedding near her home and make an appearance at a friend's memorial service in Palo Alto.
"There were lots of hugs from people with perfume on," she says. "I was able to last five hours."
Upon leaving the service, Rosskopf did a little self-detoxing. "I wiped down with handiwipes," she says. "Fragrance-free ones."