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A Chemist Retires Early From a Sick Building

My name is Gil Vice. I worked for 32 years as an analytical chemist for an industrial chemical company in Ohio. After being pretty healthy most of my life, in 1994, I developed a light cough. I didn't pay too much attention to it at first. But by spring 1995, it became significantly worse.

Gradually, I noticed that long weekends or vacations brought relief. The cough would start after going back to work. Sometimes after just one day, sometimes after a few days. At first, the cough would start late in the day, lasting until bedtime. It gradually started earlier. By May 1995, my sensitization had increased. I realized the cough would start within minutes of entering one particular lab at work, unfortunately a lab where I often did much of my work.

By mid summer, I could feel fine over a weekend, and then start coughing on my first breath after entering the problem lab. A coworker mentioned the musty smell of the lab, something I had gotten used to, and hadn't paid any attention to.

After numerous complaints to management, the HVAC system was vacuum cleaned and steamed with chlorine dioxide in September. My symptoms disappeared immediately. The remedy however was short lived. My lack of symptoms lasted just a few months. The system was vacuumed and disinfected a few more times, each time bringing relief for shorter and shorter times. Interestingly, testing by two different allergists failed to identify what I was allergic to.

By 1997, I started having the same problem in a select few other buildings, with coughing and wheezing starting sometimes within seconds of entering. Even my home once struck me, when I turned on the furnace humidifier. I turned it off, and have had no such problems at home again.

Eventually, I took early retirement because of this condition at age 54, in 2001. Interestingly, after leaving this constant source of irritation, I stopped snoring. Part of the allergic reaction had been swelling my throat. The constant cough finally eased.

I still run into an occasional building, which causes me a sudden problem, and I remember to avoid such places. My symptoms can also be triggered by other things, such as some fragrances, and worse by any particulates, such as someone spraying hairspray or deodorants like Right Guard. Worst of all is any smoke, even one lit cigarette in a room, or someone blowing out a candle.

By judiciously avoiding such situations, life is almost normal. I have no problems outside. I am lucky that my wife is understanding, and willing to get up and leave a new restaurant before ordering, simply because I start coughing. I now take no regular asthma meds. I haven't even used albuterol in over a year. Being forever vigilant has brought the greatest feeling of health.

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I appreciate the service of this scientist in sharing his personal experiences. Mr. Vice’s opinions are fully controlled by him and offered as a service to those reflecting on their illnesses. Consult a licensed medical professional before applying.

My thanks to him,

Best,

Dr. J



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