Is there an association between exposure to chemicals and chronic fatigue syndrome? Review of the evidence – Source: IACFS/ME Spring Bulletin 2009

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Background: Chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is characterized by persistent or recurrent incapacitating fatigue which can have a considerable impact on the function of the patients. A number of chemical substances have been reported to be associated with fatigue. However, it remains uncertain whether exposure to chemicals at levels usually considered safe is related to chronic fatigue.

This paper provides an overview of the existing evidence of association between chemical exposures, particularly in low levels, and CFS/ME.

Methods: The PubMed and the Scopus databases were searched using combinations of relevant terms, including ‘chronic fatigue’, ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, ‘chemicals’, ‘toxicants’ and the names of specific ‘toxicants’ and classes of toxicants. Standard toxicology textbooks were also reviewed.

Results: The existing studies were in small number and had many limitations. Most studies were descriptive, and only a handful of analytic studies were located, which seldom compared cases of CFS/ME with healthy controls. None of them was prospective and they were commonly prone to selection and information biases.

The results are presented under the subheadings:

• Organophosphates and other pesticides/insecticides;

• Carbon monoxide (CO);

• Heavy metals;

• Solvents, ciguatera and other chemicals;

• And multiple exposures, including in Gulf War troops.

Conclusions: The existing evidence remains inconclusive as to the association between exposure to chemicals and chronic fatigue syndrome, and there is therefore a need for further well designed epidemiological studies.

Source: IACFS/ME Spring Bulletin 2009, March 5. 17(1) pp 3-15. By Luis Carlos Nacul, MD, MSc, PhD; Eliana Mattos Lacerda, MD, MSc, PhD; Dikaios Sakellariou, MSc, Doctoral candidate. Nutrition and Public Health Interventions Research Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London; Department of Occupational Therapy, School of Healthcare Studies, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK. [E-mail:]

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3 thoughts on “Is there an association between exposure to chemicals and chronic fatigue syndrome? Review of the evidence – Source: IACFS/ME Spring Bulletin 2009”

  1. leebea says:

    There is a minefield of anecdotal evidence supporting a link between ME/CFS and chemical/heavy metal exposure. we just need a team of expert researchers along with their electronic gizmos to put it all together. Our bodies absorb and store heavy metals, household chemicals, insecticides, chemicals used in the production of fabrics – the list goes on. Some of us have super efficient filtration and elimination systems that manage to deal with these pollutants, others for whatever reason are not so fortunate. As we age we tend to become less efficient – also – our world is becoming more and more polluted so more and more of us are falling victim to these horrors. However, I suggest whilst we are waiting for the researchers to come up with the answer, we go off and have bioresonance testing and treatment. In my experience this is the easiest way to find what is stored in your body, and also the easiest way to have it eliminated. The results I and other members of my family have had have been fantastic. It is not cheap initially, but saves heaps in ongoing medical costs into the future, and what price do you put on your health anyway. We have only had experience with the Bicom bioresonance machine operated by a well qualified practitioner. I should state here that I have no interest whatsoever financial or personal in this type of treatment, it really should be available under Medicare.

  2. bbrown1 says:

    I feel that Dr. Luis Nacul is definitely on to something right. I had accidental CO poisoning in October 03. That winter I experienced infections that took a very long time to get over, even with anti-biotics. My eyesight worsened dramatically and I slept alot. I also bought a home that I was remodeling, exposing myself to loads of years of old chemicals and dust/dirt. I worked a day job as an Admin. Asst. and worked insane hours physically on my home every day for weeks. In July that year I developed CFS. Just a few weeks after falling into a deep sleep my vitals went all out of wack. My ejection fraction dropped down to 30-35 beats per minute causing low-output congestive heart failure. Then the pain began along with all other symptoms over the months. I have lived for nearly five years now with CFS and after two rejections from SS Disability I had a judge deny me approval on the third appeal in person. Now I have to wait months and maybe even years before getting a response from them. I am way too sick to work even a part-time job. I truly believe a combination of CO poisoning, chemical exposure and over exertion caused my CFS. I can only continue praying for understanding and acknowledgement from Social Security, medical staffing and the public to take this illness very seriously. I am so tired of feeling like I have a nasty case of the flu every day of my life.


  3. lisanagy says:

    Without going into great detail I think that Dr. Baraniuk’s work on Cerebrospinal fluid in patients with CFS, Fibro and Gulf War Syndrome has confirmed that the diseases have the same basic patholphysiology. Many of his patients had symptoms of Chemicl Sensitivity as well. Thts often have mold exposure at home or work as the source of the condition initiation. Other causes can be pesticides , and other chemical exposures that are high enough to tip the patients over, to damage the immune, endocrine and autonomic nervous system.

    This is why the effective treatment lies in discovering the etiologic agents if possible and removing them from the patients life. In the case of mold exposure this may mean moving and getting rid of one’s contaminated clothing for example.

    Those of who have recovered from these conditions and are doctors wish to impart upon those of you who want to get well – that it is possible and that the organizations should work more closely for patient benefit – yet I see little congeniality thus far.

    Physicians who practice in this way may be found at: and I may be reached for quick referral or longer consult at:
    Sincerely, Lisa Lavine Nagy MD

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