Environmental Health Exposure




Sample 10

Dec 3, 2012

by David Lincoln




Subject is a 62 year old, white, female in overall poor health. She was born in Ashtabula, Ohio in February 1950. She has lived in six residences in Ashtabula County in Northeast Ohio throughout her lifetime.


Unfortunately for her, Ashtabula County currently has numerous Toxic Release Inventory sites and it has been ranked by Scorecard as one of the Dirtiest/Worst counties in the US for environmental pollution. This 2002 ranking is further justified by the number of sources, the variety of contaminants and the extent of exposures.The county also has four superfund sites, one of the most in Ohio. Of these, the Fields Brook Superfund (shown below) is the greatest concern.

Her residence exposed her to toxins released by the Ashtabula Power Plant (recently closed) and contamination from the Lower Ashtabula River contaminated by the Fields Brook Superfund Site. The brook flows through an industrial area that is one of the largest and most diversified areas of chemical plants in Ohio, and is the principal receiving stream for many industrial discharges. The Fields Brook Superfund contaminated the river with a wide variety of toxic substances including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlorinated solvents, radioactive substances and metals. The site posed a potential health risk to individuals who would accidentally ingest or come into direct contact with contaminated soils, sediments, and surface water from Fields Brook. Ingesting contaminated fish also COULD cause adverse health effects.

In addition, the Power Plant in the past has emitted over 200 pounds of mercury per year and hundreds of thousands of pounds of Hydrochloric Acid vapor and Sulfuric acid vapor per year for decades. Exposure to these types of contaminants could increase the lifetime risks for numerous chronic diseases including liver cancer and liver disease, Parkinson’s Disease, heart disease, thyroid disease and diabetes. Some of these chemicals have been known to be associated with birth defects and other reproductive disorders. Other chemicals are known to be respiratory irritants and can cause, allergic, or immune effects. Symptoms of exposure include eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, fatigue, dizziness and damage to the central nervous system.

A 1996 EPA Survey for the Fields Brook Site was not able to detect statistically significant increases of cancer to the population within close proximity to Fields Brook when compared to the total cancer levels indicated for the State of Ohio and for the United States. However, within that normal cancer rate, the incidence of brain and central nervous system cancer was higher than expected compared to both Ohio and the United States levels. The study also noted that it was not known if potential exposures by these individuals to Fields Brook area contamination played a role in these increased incidences.

In 1998, low-level radionuclides were discovered in the soil and mining residuals at the Millennium Inorganic Chemicals and in Fields Brook sediment and floodplain/wetland soils. The discovery of the low-level radionuclides (primarily radium-226 and radium-228) complicated the cleanup designs that were then underway.

Her current address is about 1/2 mile from the Lower Ashtabula River and roughly 2 miles from Fields Brook. After she moved there, the Millennium Inorganic Cristal Chemical Company, (established in 1985) began emitting millions of pounds of Carbonyl Sulfide(COS and Manganese (Mn).  Carbonyl Sulfide) releases at more than 5 million pounds per year make these plants the 1st and 3rd highest emissions of COS in the country.

The EPA lists Carbonyl Sulfide (COS) as a Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) and in the body or in in the presence of moisture it combines to form Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S). Effects of carbonyl sulfide on human health and the environment depend on how much carbonyl sulfide is present and the length and frequency of exposure.  Effects also depend on the health of a person or the condition of the environment when exposure occurs.

Excerpts from the Materials Safety Data Sheet for Carbonyl Sulfide reveal:


Irritating to the eyes, mucous membranes and respiratory system and is narcotic at high concentrations. May decompose into hydrogen sulfide within body tissues resulting in inhibition of cellular respiration, possible pulmonary paralysis, sudden collapse and death. It is also highly flammable.  


Continuous exposure to low (15-50 ppm) concentrations will generally cause irritation to mucous membranes, and may also cause headache, dizziness or nausea. Other reported effects include central nervous effects as well as giddiness, vertigo, amnesia, confusion, weakness, and muscle cramps.


For the two Millennium plants together, Carbonyl Sulfide emissions were over 4.5 million pounds in 2010 and over  5 million pounds per year in 2003; the year after the subject moved into the area. Also during her entire residence. manganese and manganese compounds were released at over 5 million pounds per year.

As shown by the map above, Millennium Inorganic Chemicals in Ashtabula are the two largest releases of manganese in the country. The release of more than 5 million pounds of manganese per year into on-site landfills is more than 10 times the amount of manganese released by any other facility.

Manganism or manganese poisoning is a toxic condition resulting from chronic exposure to manganese and first identified in 1837 by James Couper.  Chronic exposure to excessive Mn levels can lead to a variety of psychiatric and motor disturbances.  Generally, exposure to ambient Mn air concentrations in excess of 5 mg Mn/m3 can lead to Mn-induced symptoms.

In initial stages of manganism, neurological symptoms consist of reduced response speed, irritability, mood changes, and compulsive behaviors. Upon protracted exposure symptoms are more prominent and resemble those of idiopathic Parkinson's disease, which it is often misdiagnosed as, although there are particular differences in both the symptoms (nature of tremors, for example), response to drugs such as levodopa, and affected portion of the basal ganglia.  Symptoms are also similar to Lou Gehrig's disease and multiple sclerosis.

Given all of these environmental threats it would not be surprising to find that death rates for certain cancers and other chronic diseases would be elevated in Ashtabula relative to other US counties. For White Females, death rates in Ashtabula County (relative to other US counties are elevated between 2004 to 2008 for all malignant cancers including leukemia, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer and uterine cancer, colon and rectum cancers Risks are also greater for heart disease, diabetes, and COPD compared to the rest of the country.

While association does not imply causation, it is clear that Ashtabula County has an unusual number and diversity of toxic chemicals and hazardous chemicals. It also has elevated risks for a number of cancer types and chronic diseases for white females. Subject should work with her doctor to aid in early diagnosis of these chronic diseases. She should share with her doctor her complete pattern of symptoms and previous toxic exposures to avoid becoming another Ashtabula County statistic.

Given the levels of toxic overload from mercury exposure alone, client should also be alert to symptoms of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and autoimmune diseases.  Symptoms of MCS may be mild to disabling. These include allergic reaction to common chemicals and scents and vague complaints: feeling tired, "brain fog" (short-term memory problems, difficulty concentrating) and muscle pain. Treatments vary from psychological to avoidance of known irritants, nutritional support to purge the body of its toxic load, sauna detoxification etc. Because many people eliminate whole categories of food in an effort to reduce symptoms, a complete review of the patient's diet may be needed to avoid nutritional deficiencies. In particular, nutritional levels might be tested with special emphasis on magnesium, zinc and cysteine values. Finally, the use of imported vitamin supplements or herbs should be closely scrutinized to avoid those sourced from India, Bangladesh or other areas known to have water and soils contaminated with arsenic or heavy metals.

Other factors which the client may wish to consider are ingestion of heavy metals. Mercury vapors are given off by “silver” fillings of dental amalgams. The number, condition and length of time fillings were in place should influence whether action is needed. Additionally, the amount and frequency of consumption of predatory fish like tuna, swordfish and shark should be within FDA recommended guidelines to minimize mercury accumulation,

Finally, each of the major toxic exposures (primarily mercury, carbonyl sulfide, manganese and acid vapors), should be discussed thoroughly with a doctor in light of the subjects history. Prolonged mercury exposure at high levels not only increases the risks of certain chronic diseases, but it can compromise the immune system making treatments more difficult. This history may weigh heavily on course of treatment, prognosis, and future diagnosis of these chronic diseases. As always, association does not imply causality and all conclusions and recommendations should be thoroughly discussed with a doctor before any action is taken.