DISABILITIES

www.danieljvance.com


By Daniel J. Vance MS, LPC, NCC


It wasn't his best day. In September 2004, Pat Duvall of Riverside, California, was beginning training to be a pest control applicator. While he slipped on his applicator backpack, pesticide somehow leaked out to soak the back of his shirt. The pesticide was for outdoor applications in controlling ants and termites.

“I had a physical reaction right away,” said 47-year-old Duvall in a telephone interview. “I was in a cloud mentally and my heart was racing. In situations like that, you're supposed to rinse your skin for 20 minutes with water. Unfortunately, the guy training me didn't give me the right procedure. All he told me to do was change my soaked shirt.”

Soon after, Duvall and a friend were painting outdoors using a sprayer and he became overwhelmed by the paint fumes. Again, he had a racing heart, high blood pressure, and mental fog. He made his way to a hospital emergency room, where a doctor diagnosed him with an “acute drug reaction.”

A couple years later, he learned he had multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), which the Chemical Sensitivity Foundation defines as a “medical condition characterized by debilitating chemical sensitivities. People chemically sensitive are made sick by exposures to chemicals found in many common products such as pesticides, perfumes, tobacco smoke, new carpets, air fresheners, new paint and building materials, and many cleaning and laundry products.”

Symptoms can be disabling, and can include headache, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, and seizures.

Today, he has symptoms when around household cleaners, vehicle exhaust, dryer sheets, scented products, and some colognes and perfumes. He becomes cognitively impaired, and his blood pressure and heart rate jump. He often experiences symptoms while driving in smoggy southern California traffic. At least one doctor has suggested he has been faking the illness.

For work, he owns a full-time DJ music business. He said, “One time I was DJing doing an outside promotion for a doctor's clinic. I was on busy Crenshaw Avenue in Los Angeles along with all the buses and cars. I started feeling disoriented and began wondering how I would get through the gig. By the time I reached home, I was just wiped out and slept in bed until the next morning.”

Duvall hoped the general public would become more aware of MCS and show some compassion for people with chemical sensitivities.

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