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Pesticides May be Part of CFIDS Etiology

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By Author: Molly Holzschlag • • January 1, 1996

It has long been postulated that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is, in part, related to environmental causes. Pesticides have been pointed to as possibly being an aspect of such environmental effects. Researchers from the University of Newcastle in Australia recently published a study in the Medical Journal of Australia. The research, which focused on levels of pesticides in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients, revealed that 45% of the patients studied did have higher levels of certain pesticides than normal controls.

Three types of individuals were studied. In the first group were twenty-two Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients who fulfilled the 1988 U.S. Centers for Disease Control criteria for CFS. The second group was made up of seventeen patients fulfilling the criteria except for the fact that they all had known exposure to toxic chemicals and therefore were excluded from a CDC-based diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The final was made up of thirty-four healthy subjects.

Four types of pesticides were found in blood samples from each of the above groups. The types of pesticides, known as organochlorine pesticides, included hexachlorobenene (HCB), heptachlor epoxide, dieldrin, and DDE. HCB and DDE were the most prevalent, making up more than 90 percent of the total pesticides tested for in each selection of individuals.

The significant findings show that 45% of all people in the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome group had HCB in their blood, but only 21% of the healthy individuals tested showed measurable levels. The people in the CFS group also had higher levels of DDE than in the healthy group. The total pesticide levels were all-around higher in the CFS group than in the healthy individuals.

The toxic exposure group reflected a more intermediate level between the two above groups. The Newcastle Researchers, who were also responsible for investigating a urine-level marker to help in diagnosis of CFS, concluded that these pesticides may indeed have a higher causal role in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and have made a strong recommendation that future investigation should look into the severity of CFS symptoms in relation to the content of these pesticides in all communities.


Dunstan, H; Donohoe, M; Taylor, W; Roberts, T; Murdoch, R; Watkins, J; McGregor, N. A preliminary investigation of chlorinated hydrocarbons and chronic fatigue syndrome.

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