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Question DetailsAsked on 5/19/2016

Can long term residential exposure to hydrogen sulfide be misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder?

FOR 6 YEARS MY TOILET WAS IMPROPERLY SEATED LEAKING SEWER GAS IN MY SMALL HOUSE. i HAD MANY HEALTH ISSUES INCLUDING PNEUMONIA 3X, CONFUSION, DIZZINESS, HEADACHES, FATIGUE, ANXIETY ETC. I WAS DIAGNOSED AS BIPOLAR AT THE AGE OF 67 (in the 5th of the 6 years). FOUND OUT FROM PLUMBER, GOT IT FIXED AND TRIED TO CONVINCE DOCTORS THAT I HAD TOXIC POISONING. THEY DISMISSED THE IDEA

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Note - I am not a doctor, but have had a fair amount of environmental health training for hazardous work conditions, as an environmetnal and hazardous work site supervisor, and chemical, biological and radiological training and experience in the military - as well as a fair amount of work inside large sewers and mines and other underground excavations with methane and hydrogen sulfide present and requiring deliberate protection measures.


Chronic lung issues, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, memory losses, anxiety, and indecisiveness or swings of mood (like in bipolar cases) are all known symptoms of long-term sewer gas (hydrogen sulfide and methane and associated gases) exposure - I have no idea on the likelihood of bipolar being confused, but brain malfunction is a know effect at moderate levels of long-term exposure and a bipolar diagnosis is done on the basis of symptoms, not direct detection of a disease or condition - so I would think the possibility of misdiagnosis is higher than with some diagnoses.


Here is one article I knew of on the subject of household exposure and symptoms and such - most of your symptoms are described there, though that is not a difinitive statement that is the cause of your condition -


http://www.personalconsult.com/articl...



I would say you need to consider getting a referral to an Environmental Health specialist doctor - one specializing in environmental health issues. However, from my training in industry hazards both from sewer gases (from working on large sewer and underground projects) and from hydrogen sulfide (from working on and supervising petroleum projects where that was a workplace hazard) other than chronic eye irritation and cornea damage, nose and throat mucous membrane damage and irritation, and lung issues like chronic bronchitis and pneumonia with long or high-dose exposure, once the exposure was gone the symptoms usually disappear soon also unless long term exposure. Of course, with very long exposure ???


To be perfectly honest, unless you have a very tight house (well insulated and effective vapor barriers) and no bathroom fan, I really doubt that your exposure level would have caused any problems - because if it was strong enough to cause such problems you would probably not have put up with it for that long, because of breathing difficulties and burning eyes and nasal passages. Generally, the level at which normal (not industrial) sewer gases are known to cause problems are on the order of 10 times the level where their odor and eye and nsaal passage burning would make the situation unliveable for most people - in other words, you generally would be driven out by the immediate symptoms before significatn damage would occur.


Certainly, after it was fixed, I would have expected at least some of the symptoms to seriously drop off - ditto if you were out of the house for more than a few days at a time on a trip or such.


One other thing to consider - easily tested with a $25-35 or so digital (so shows actual level as a part per million number, not just an alarm) carbon monoxide detector - is some of those symptoms, especially if not associated with eye or nose or throat burning sensations, would be carbon monoxide poisoning from a leaky furnace, water heater, or boiler or from ducting from a fuel-fired appliance or fireplace or stove.


Google this search phrase - effects of chronic exposure to sewer gases - for further info on long-term exposure effects - start with the OSHA, NIH, and CDC documents as the most definitive - you could also check on the Mayo Clinic free medical info website.


But if you are being treated for bipolar disorder, you could demand that your doctor investigate the possibility of it being environmentally caused - providing CREDIBLE information from NIH, CDC, etc articles might help him with assessing this. Probably the way to most definitively get them to consider this is to write a letter to them to include in your file that you believe environmental exposure to sewer gases might be the cause of your condition, and you request they definitively investigate that possibility. That would get it in the record such that they would HAVE to take it seriously (for fear of lawsuit if they fail to and are proven wrong) - though could also cause your current doctor to say he cannot handle your case anymore because you do not trust his judgement. Easier to get that sort of thing into the file whebn you FIRST see a doctor about a condition, where you state your symptoms and what you think caused them - that then become the initial premise for the investigation of the condition, and it does not put the doctor on the spot.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD




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