Sunday, April 02, 2006

Fluoride Poisoning in Trinidad

by Darlene Sherrell
St. George's, Grenada
June, 1995

This article was written in June of 1995, aboard the yacht Seafever. The story is about what happened to me in Trinidad, with an unexpected exposure to fluoride in the air. It is just one of several instances when fluoride in the air, food, or beverages has caused a sudden onset of fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, severe headache, gastrointestinal problems, and other symptoms of fluoride poisoning.

In the Caribbean Islands nicknames take on a special meaning, describing physical features, voices, habits, or even relationships. Very often, finding someone requires knowledge of that special name. Asking for John Smith may produce a blank stare, while asking for Tall Boy brings a smile and the needed directions. For an outsider, being given a name is a sign of acceptance - even though you might get stuck with one like Ugly, Big Foot, or Nose.

Mine is Grandma D ... picked up in the mid 1980s while living in Grand Cayman. I like my island name - really like being "older" because for most of the first half of my life, pain was an everyday thing, and during the second half the pain was gone. I felt younger every year - until Trinidad, and Alcoa. We sailed to Trinidad late in October of 1994, after sixteen months in a remote area off the south coast of Grenada. The journey of about eighty miles was pleasantly uneventful. In luck somehow, we arrived in time to ride the shifting currents through the Boca de Monos, check in with Customs and Immigration, and dinghy over to the Lifeline Bar for a cold drink.

Our little 36' sailboat needed to come out of the water to have her bottom cleaned and re-painted I needed clothing and galley equipment. We planned to install the anchor windlass and new wind generator, have a large canopy made, do a few minor repairs here and there. There were lists and plans galore; and like children yearning to spend our allowance, we set out to explore.

The yachting facilities are located in Chaguaramas, a beautiful unspoiled area with easy access to modern shopping malls, dozens of inexpensive restaurants, well kept parks, and an infinite variety of department and specialty stores in Port of Spain, about twenty minutes away by route taxi. After more than three years living at anchor in less-modern surroundings, this was another world, another century. There were people of every race, color, creed, and national origin; a friendly hospitable group the likes of which we had never seen.

From our pleasant well-protected bay we could see several small islands nearby, the mountain peaks of Venezuela to the west, the hills and mountains of Trinidad to our north and east. Yet, within easy reach were the advantages of a modern Miami or Honolulu. Multi-lane highways took the place of narrow unpaved roads - and nary a goat or chicken to slow the pace.

It looked as though we had found the perfect place at last.

Three nights later I awoke with a pounding headache ... the kind that won't respond to aspirin. By the end of the week my hands were stiff and sore, my legs beginning to ache.

As a child I had suffered with rheumatoid arthritis, multiple allergies and chemical sensitivities, asthma, and three episodes of life-threatening anaphylactic shock. I was all too familiar with the signs. However, all that was a thing of the distant past. My supposedly incurable ailments of almost twenty years duration had disappeared with changes in my diet and a careful avoidance of fluoride. Other than a few occasions when my own carelessness brought on a minor flare-up in my hands or legs, I had enjoyed more than twenty-five years of excellent health with not a penny spent at a doctor's office or pharmacy.

After the usual office-bound occupations (typesetter, bookkeeper, judicial assistant, research associate) I had decided at the age of 41 to learn to drive an eighteen wheeler and get paid to see the country. The law specifies that one cannot qualify to drive if the pre-employment physical reveals any sign of arthritis; yet over and over, I had no trouble. By driving coast to coast just a few weeks each year I could finance travel by air to Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, where I could live on just a few dollars a day.

For six years I traveled, living outdoors most of the time, sleeping in a rain and mosquito-proof hammock, making whole grain breads and cooking fresh vegetables on an open fire or kerosene stove. I became accustomed to using a machete; walking and swimming distances measured in miles, not yards; and could carry everything I owned in a back pack. I was an International Bag Lady ... and loved it! When my purse grew light I simply found another job.

During a visit to my elder daughter's home in Florida in 1988 I met Douglas. A native of Jamaica, he had been living in the States for more than forty years; but dreamed of selling everything, buying a boat, and sailing down the island chain through the Caribbean. Although neither of us had been sailors, and he a little more than nine years my senior, we both felt up to the challenge and began to move in that direction.

We left the Florida shore in September of 1991, stopping awhile in the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the U. S. and British Virgin islands, St. Lucia, Dominica; arriving just ahead of the hurricane season in beautiful Grenada, the Spice island, where we seemed to really settle in. Douglas was Captain, of course, and in charge of the engine and important electrical systems. I was navigator, cook, laundress. The rest, we shared. We also had a Chief of Security in our little mix-breed dog named Sam.

As I said earlier, for a very long time I had been disgustingly healthy. But after just a few weeks in Trinidad my hands were often too sore and weak to tear a piece of toilet tissue. I couldn't hold a pen, and could barely dress myself. What began as a numbness and tingling in my left arm became the most excruciating pain in my experience - and lasted more than three months.

My right thumb would snap or click rather than bend, and lock into position. My neck, also painfully stiff, made crackling grating crunching sounds whenever I tried to move my head. The muscles in my back were far too tight to allow a twisting or stretching motion. And, worst of all, my left shoulder and arm felt like fine wires with hooks were being dragged through the flesh along with an electrical current - at times like a fire hose in intensity, and at others, a trickling forest stream ... but always there, always painful. It was almost impossible to reach forward with either arm. I found it necessary to keep my left elbow against my waist and my hand tied or held up towards the opposite shoulder.

Traveling in a car or bus - even on good roads - was a nightmare, as each tiny movement set the muscles of my neck to cramping. There were many times when even the slightest exertion had me gasping for breath. There were sharp pains in my chest, a lump in my throat, and a frequent sensation of heartburn. Sinus congestion and headaches became common again. Diarrhea and constipation alternated for no apparent reason. A persistent dry cough seemed to originate deep in my chest; and my legs and arms had not just an occasional Charley Horse, but a whole herd in residence. My right knee refused to bend properly. Sleep never came for more than an hour or two before the pain in my big toe, hand, or head broke into consciousness.

Eventually, after six weeks that seemed an eternity, the boat was back in the water and we were able to leave. Douglas did all the work while I propped myself in the cockpit or down below. Fortunately, very light wind and sea conditions allowed us to motor-sail to Tobago, where we anchored at Pigeon Point and I prayed for a speedy recovery.

In January I celebrated my 54th birthday feeling old and broken and twice my age. But, by the second week in February my arm was fine and the rest of my complaints were fading away. Slowly but surely I was becoming myself again.

On April 6 we set sail for Grenada and settled in the lagoon in St. George's - the prettiest little port town I have ever seen. Once again I walk two or three miles each day, climb stairs and hills, do all of our laundry by hand, sew, and even carve designs in small calabash as a hobby ... all without trouble or pain.

One day, while we were still in Trinidad I decided to brave the trip to town to find a few items on my list. By then my left arm was useless and I yearned for one of those wide bulky collars people wear after a whiplash injury; but I was determined.

On the return the route taxi turned off the main road up into the hills of the Carenage area about two and a half miles east of our anchorage. We stopped near a building with a sign painted on its side - a notice of a meeting held the month before - for all those involved in the "Alcoa Dust Case." Suddenly everything made sense. As in the comic strips, the little light bulb clicked on for me ... Alcoa ... dust ... fluoride. We were anchored down wind from Alcoa's bauxite transfer station at the bottom of the hill. I hadn't known.

A few days later I met Rose Pyle, a member of the group involved in the lawsuit against Alcoa. She invited me into her home, complaining about dust everywhere - inside kitchen cupboards, on every surface. Wiping a finger here and there, she showed me the result. "We had to put in air conditioning," she said, "we have to keep everything closed, but the dust comes in anyway." She told me about the constant pain in her neck and shoulders, the headaches and muscle spasms. We were mirror images in pain. When I asked what specific chemical she thought might be causing her trouble she said, without hesitation, "aluminum."

Rose went on to explain that not everyone in her tiny neighborhood was involved - just a little over half of them. The trouble, she said, was that they couldn't find scientific proof to show that aluminum could be causing their problems. "No wonder," I said, "you're barking up the wrong tree!"

Trinidad has her environmental problems, but most of her industry is located near the southwest corner of the island. Constant trade winds carry the air pollution offshore to the west. We were on the northwest corner of the island, not downwind. The water is not fluoridated. However, the fine particles of bauxite dust could easily contain enough fluoride to cause a problem.

I explained to Rose that the easiest way to establish the degree of their exposure to fluoride would be analyses of urine samples. The connection to arthritic complaints had already been established - as in crippling skeletal fluorosis.

She was amazed when I showed her the lists of fluoride poisoning symptoms - lists and descriptions published recently by the U.S. Public Health Service, the World Health Organization, National Academy of Sciences, and the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

In each of these, crippling skeletal fluorosis is described as a progressive disease which develops as fluoride accumulates in both the skeletal and soft tissues of the body ... a process which usually requires years rather than days.

It appears, however, that some of us react more quickly than others, more violently. Fluoride causes an alteration in the structure of proteins, which the body's immune system recognizes as something not itself - a foreign object. The resulting antibodies and immune complexes cause connective tissue disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Hundreds of Safety Studies?

Although X-rays have been the traditional method used in fluoridation safety studies, diagnosis of chronic fluoride poisoning cannot be made by X-ray alone.

In 1953, Frada and Mentesana reported a high incidence of gastro-intestinal symptoms - gastric pain, bloating in the abdomen and diarrhea alternating with constipation. Skeletal changes demonstrable by X-ray were noted in only 45 percent of their cases with advanced fluorosis. ("Some Observations on Chronic Fluorosis," Boll. d. I. Soc. Ital. Biol. Sper. 29:750-53, April 1953.)

Roholm had noted these non-skeletal symptoms in 1935, along with a feeling of stiffness, indefinite or localized rheumatic pains, tiredness, and headache. However, the literature on intoxication from drinking natural fluoride water, ranging in concentrations from two to sixteen parts per million, concerns itself mostly with bones and teeth. Relatively little attention has been given to symptoms attributable to damage to other organs.

In 1955 Waldbott reported a case involving severe backache in the lower spine, severe abdominal pain with pain and numbness in arms and legs and partial palsy in arms. X-ray studies were entirely negative in this patient whose symptoms disappeared with avoidance of fluoride. ("Chronic Fluorine Intoxication from Drinking Water at the One Part per Million Concentration. A Case Report," Int. Arch. of Allergy and Applied Immunology 7:70-74, 1955.)

Other similar case reports by Waldbott mention "rheumatism" which disappears when distilled water is used for drinking and cooking. Symptom descriptions include "a peculiar gnawing sensation in the stomach after eating, as though there was something burning inside ... increasing stiffness and pain in the spine ... hands begin to tingle ... severe muscular pains in arms and legs ... throat, eyes and nose became extremely dry ... more or less continuous ache in the lumbosacral region and between the shoulder blades ... tenderness practically everywhere."

The following is a typical comment by Waldbott, "This patient remained completely well upon drinking and cooking with distilled water. In August 1955 she was obliged to use city water again. Within one day, her muscle pains and intestinal symptoms returned."

Waldbott noted, "Tolerance to fluorides varies considerably among individuals. No estimate of the incidence of this disease can be made at this time." (The American Fluoridation Experiment, by F.B. Exner, M.D., and G.L. Waldbott, M.D., Devin-Adair Company, New York, 1961).


Post a Comment

<< Home