illness can occur when you are exposed to toxins or substances in the
environment that make you sick. These health hazards may be found where you
live, work, or play.
Maybe you have headaches that only occur on
weekends. Or maybe you began to feel sick and got a rash after moving into a
newly built home. These symptoms can be caused by exposure to
toxic chemicals. For example:
It's hard enough to cope with allergies on the weekend, but dealing with allergies at work is even more challenging.
Ask anyone who's ever dozed off in the middle of an important meeting because of allergy symptoms or medications.
"Allergy symptoms are the No. 2 reason adults miss work," says James Sublett, MD, a board-certified asthma and allergy specialist in Louisville, Ky.
The average worker with allergies misses about one hour per week over the course of a year. But that sick time is often...
Those weekend headaches may be caused by a
broken furnace leaking carbon monoxide.
Materials in new buildings may cause nausea and rashes. And the
paper that makes up the outside layers of drywall promotes mold growth.
Exposure to these molds may cause symptoms and could make you sick.
What causes environmental illnesses?
Exposure to some types of chemicals can cause an environmental illness. The more of the chemical you are exposed to, the more likely you are to get ill. Examples include:
Chemicals in cigarettes are known to cause lung cancer.
Exposure to asbestos, an insulating material found in some
older buildings, can cause tumors, lung cancer, and other
Wood-burning stoves and poorly
vented gas ranges can produce smoke or gases that can cause breathing problems.
Unsafe drinking water from a rural well polluted with
pesticides or other poisons from a nearby industrial plant could cause
allergies, cancer, or other problems.
Certain chemicals in the workplace may cause sterility, mainly in
Lead poisoning can cause health
problems in children. It can also cause high blood pressure, brain damage, and
stomach and kidney problems in adults.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of an
environmental illness depend on what is causing it. The symptoms may be like those you can get with
other conditions. Examples are:
If you think that exposure to toxic chemicals or other health hazards could be making you
sick, talk to your doctor.
How are environmental illnesses diagnosed?
An environmental illness can be hard to diagnose. You and your doctor may not
know what is causing your symptoms. Or you may mistake your symptoms for
another problem. Exposure to toxic chemicals can cause a wide range of common
medical problems or make them worse.