Saturday, March 29, 2008

What does it feel like to be poisoned?

When I got sick this month, I very slightly questioned toxic poisoning. Why? Because it felt the same way it did many years ago, when I was poisoned by E6000 glue I was using for my jewelry creations. It felt *exactly* the same. I even told my husband that.

So why didn't it dawn on me BEFORE I went to the hospital 2 weeks ago? Probably because when you're poisoned by something so subtle, your can't think straight. Dizziness, nausea, passing out, numbness, tingling, all effects any aspect of clear thinking. And of course when you do go the hospital or doctor because you're freaking out thinking you're having a stroke or a heart attack (which is mainly caused from PANIC from not knowing what the hell is going on with you), you just don't think too clearly.

And when you're only using products which are labeled "Non Toxic", you think you're safe. Years ago when the E6000 poisoned me, I knew it was toxic. And my work space wasn't ventilated properly. A round of tests and several hundred dollars later, and the doctors couldn't find anything. Why? Because that kind of poisoning is so subtle, they can't see it on normal tests. I'm not really sure if they can see it on ANY tests.

It was thanks to the internet, some discussion with my jewelry supplier (Brenda Sue...B'Sue Boutiques...many of you know her) and her sharing her own experiences with me that let me know what had happened to me. I had been affected by poisoning from the glue, and I immediately had to stop using it. After about a year, I could use it again, but I had to be very careful.

So my original jewelry career was over, because it depended on the use of that glue (or other equally toxic ones) to make the things I was making. I had to switch gears and learn all new techniques and I had to be very careful to ensure I wouldn't end up exposed to other toxins. Since then, I've also became sensitive to things such as hair spray, glass cleaners, and perfumes.

A short time after that incident, I discovered polymer clay. The first thing I did was make sure it was non toxic. It was labeled as such. It didn't even have much of an odor, and didn't make fumes when baking in my convection oven (separate from my home oven and in a separate workspace in the basement). YES! I'd found a new - a SAFE - outlet for my creativity!

So when I got sick this past month, it didn't even dawn on me I'd been poisoned. As I said, I slightly entertained the thought, because it felt the way it did before. But everything I was using was labeled non-toxic and I didn't smell any fumes when baking the clay, so it couldn't be that. Think forward to last Saturday.

Last Saturday was the last time I have made anything using polymer clay. At that time, I was still suffering with the weird feeling in my head, some nausea, and some dizziness, but it had diminished considerably. Well I guess so, considering I'd been so sick and ended up at the hospital...I really didn't feel much like working on anything, so I was away from the clay. As soon as I felt a little better, I started working with the clay again...but the symptoms kept coming back.

So last Saturday, I finished up one piece of jewelry, and then I chose to do a color pencil painting. Actually, the original plan was to make some more jewelry, but this idea came into my mind to do this pinup style angel painting. I kept trying to avoid the idea, and even had gone into the studio and started working with the clay, but I kept mind kept returning to the angel idea. Finally I said OKAY, and I started the angel portrait, which I finished up on Sunday (see it here).

Sunday morning in church I had another incident with some dizziness...not as bad as the last time, but still not pleasant. I came home from church and finished my painting...and then went on to work on some small ACEO paintings the rest of this week.

Monday I was feeling better - I had no dizziness, but still had the weird feeling in my head. From Tuesday on, I have felt better, and the weird feeling, tingling in my legs, and numbness had all disappeared by Wednesday. Today, as I write this, I feel completely normal for the first time in a month.

Now there have been several suggestion as to what could have caused this...from menopause to a drop in blood sugar, to my vision issues (which are now corrected with glasses), to having too much caffeine, to this and to that. Even the doctor suggested it might be stress and psychological issues. Um yeah, I am under stress. Normally I can handle stress fine (although I do have the occasional panic attack). I have been taking serious measures to reduce the stress in my life, and it's very difficult, but I seriously doubted stress had caused all of this, especially since the feelings were still there when I was completely calm after days of feeling no stress.

So last night, it dawned on me...I haven't worked with polymer clay in a whole week. And I *NOW* feel completely normal. Hmmm. But it's non-toxic, I told myself. Or is it? Here's a link I found this morning with some important information, and it reaffirms my original thoughts about poisoning exactly:

Be sure to go down the the paragraph titled: The Poisoning of an Alaskan teacher

There is a link on that site to "view the full report. That PDF link didn't work for me, but the view HTML link does -- click here to see that.

I am aware the polymer clay companies have been reformulating their products (they have until 2009 to do this)...I learned of this a couple months ago and wondered why, as I had never had any problem with the clay. Well, I think I know the answer now.

In my bloodwork, it shows my neutrophils where high. I looked this up on the internet - notice what I have highlighted: Causes of neutrophilia: acute bacterial infection, inflammation, metabolic or chemical poisoning, acute hemorrhage, acute hemolysis, myeloproliferative diseases, tissue necrosis, early stages of some viral diseases.

Also, I'd like to note I have no other symptoms, do not have the flu, a cold, or any other visible illness. All the other tests at the hospital (EKG, CT Scan, doctor exam) came out normal and the doctor was not concerned at all, even with the nuetrophils being higher than they should on my bloodwork.

So in case you're wondering why I have returned to my color pencil art (I think that's pretty safe!), and why I plan on working in that field for a while, that is why. I am currently ceasing making any new jewelry. Like the e6000, I will probably have to stay away from the product for a while until I get less sensitive.

I'm almost positive it is the fumes (though I smell NONE) and it makes sense it would be the fumes, because recently when we had some nicer days, I opened the door in the studio to allow fresh air flow when I was working (which included during baking time). Since I've been keeping up with my health symptoms in case I had to return to a doctor, I noted on those 2 days I had the door open, I didn't feel strange. I can probably do that again, but I know from past experience, I need a TOTAL break to "clean out" my system, just like I had to do with the E6000.

Also, it could be contact with the skin...the product could be absorbed just enough by the skin when working with it to cause a problem. But I really feel it is most likely some fumes I am inhaling unknowingly (since I can't smell any fumes when baking). Especially since I wash my hands frequently while handling the clay. It was the same thing with was the fumes that caused my issues.

So since I don't want to feel sick, and since I don't relish the thought of passing out no matter where I'm at (the thought of it happening while driving scared me to death!), I think I'll stay away from the product for a while, and when I do use it again, I'll have to do something about ventilation.

Most "normal" people don't have a problem working with this product. I'm sure I am more sensitive due to the breakdown in my system from the E6000 incident. But just in case any of you have anything weird going's a list of what happened to me "symptom" wise and all of these things happened before when I was poisoned:

Nausea, dizziness, passing out, numbness in legs, weak/wobbly legs, feeling of being "off balance", tingling all over, tightness in head & cheeks, and chest pains (those last two could have been from panic...but I had them so I'm listing them). I also experienced extremely blurry vision - but I have been to the eye doctor since and gotten glasses. However, my prescription is very low, and I hardly doubt the need for these glasses would have cause the extreme blurry vision I had. Some - maybe yes. But to the extent it happened so strongly, I don't think so.

I'm glad to have narrowed down what was happening to me. Poisoning is such a sneaky thing! You never see it coming, and it's always something small and obvious --> but who's looking? We're having fun creating neat things from these products and we think because it says "non toxic", we're okay. I'm here to tell you --> even if it says non-toxic, even if you smell no fumes, don't get too comfortable with that, and still take appropriate precautions. Because I don't wish how I felt this past month on ANYONE.

Thanks to all of you who have been keeping in touch with me and checking on me during my period of illness. I appreciate each and every one of you! I think now I'll go pick up my color pencils and create something pretty. :)


P.S. Something pushed me STRONGLY last Saturday to put down the clay and do the angel painting...perhaps it was my own angel, looking after me? :)

P.S.S. My hospital bill for this is $1,073. That is *after* writing off $1610. There's no way I can pay that and I have no insurance. I'm going to contact them to see if they have assistance or a payment plan. All because something I thought was non-toxic was least not for me.

1 comment:

France said...

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing your story! I'm going to look at things a bit differently now, specially since my reading your post comes after a documentary DH told me about (and recorded) called "Males in Danger" where it talks about similar things, including how plastic test tubes skew results... because the plastic leaches in the substance they are testing! Makes you think!!!