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Broad Concerns About Toxic Exposures And Myeloma

My recent blog, "New Study Provides Clues to What Causes Myeloma," clearly struck a chord with many myeloma patients. The heartfelt comments and questions are noted and really appreciated. A first point is that New York residents or people working in New York who believe they were exposed to toxins by the 9/11 event ARE indeed eligible for screening and treatment under the Zadroga Act and World Trade Center Health Program. But the powerful vision of toxic exposures in New York reminded many of you of possible or probable toxic exposures in your own cases. From 1-3 butadiene exposure at Rexam Graphics to pesticide exposures, tours of duty in Vietnam (and/or neighboring countries) with Agent Orange and dioxin exposures, fumes from asphalt and/or construction sites, or general industrial pollution, very valid correlations and concerns are raised.

For New Yorkers, it is very important to seek screening and follow-up or treatment. The designated centers of excellence are noted in the link above. Early assessment, diagnosis, and treatment are keys to achieve the best outcomes.

For others with broader concerns and questions about toxic exposures, much more needs to be done. In a new editorial in the New York Times (Sunday, January 20, 2013), Nicholas D. Kristof discusses what he calls "warnings from a flabby mouse." You may be aware that obesity has been linked to an increased likelihood of myeloma. The key question has been: "Does obesity in some way trigger myeloma or does some chemical or toxic exposure trigger obesity, diabetes, myeloma, and possibly other cancers?" Nicholas highlights the work of renowned researcher, Bruce Blumberg, at the University of California, who coined the term, "obesogen," for chemicals that cause increased fat storage. These obesogens are the exact same types of chemicals that can cause myeloma: endocrine disrupter chemicals including dioxins, chemicals from plastics and rubber, agricultural chemicals, as well as chemicals in foam cushions and jet fuel (http://endo.endojournals.org/content/147/6/s50.full.pdf+html).

So it seems that the epidemic of obesity and diabetes may be linked to increases in the incidence of myeloma in recent years. Thus, as they say, "the plot thickens." The scenario of widespread environmental chemical pollution, how to assess it, and what to do about it is such a large and important topic that I will return to it in future blogs.

For now, be aware and seek advice as needed. The overriding motto of the IMF is "knowledge is power."


How do I Know if I am Exposed to Toxic Chemical Pollution?

I commented earlier (Comment #26) to Dr. Durie�s blog regarding toxic exposures and causes of MM and wanted to inform the members about an EPA site that documents industrial air pollution in your area. I have been an activist against air pollution all my life and use this site often. Simply log on to www.epa.gov/tri . When asked for your zip code, enter it. Most will be surprised at the air pollution in their area. The EPA requires by law, that any toxic chemicals be reported to the public. This regulation was written as a �public right to know Act� shortly after the Bhopal, India incident in 1984 when over 14,000 deaths occurred. TRI is the acronym for �Toxic Release Index�. When you log on with your zip code or city, you will find a summary of all the facilities and then click on the individual facility to get the actual toxic chemicals like benzene, etc.

Bob Adamski

I am a 78 year old recently diagnosed MM patient. Like many other individuals, I lived a very healthy lifestyle with a good diet and a compulsive exercise program. My father passed away at 97 and mother at 86. After my yearly physical six months ago, my primary physician reported that at 77, I was in excellent physical condition for a man my age. I then started having back pain, a loss of 35 lbs. in muscle mass, and a severe loss of bone density. I was being treated for osteoporosis and after five doctors, gallons of blood tests and urine samples, nine body scans, and finally a bone marrow biopsy by an excellent oncologist; I was diagnosed with MM. Consequently, my question like thousands of others with MM is, �why me?�
Dr. Durie�s comments on environmental causes of MM appears to have a lot of validity, especially after the �MM connection� to the 9/11 toxic material exposure. In my case like other comments, I was an engineer in the chemical and petrochemical industry for 40+ years. In addition, I was exposed to beta and gamma sources of radioactive materials in the 1950�s engineering isotopes for industry applications. So the hypothesis of long term exposure to toxic materials or radiation could have significant data to support a �MM connection�.
However, I do have another factor to consider and that is, radiation from airport security devices and even the higher strength of cosmic radiation exposure when flying at 40,000 feet. During my career I have flown over 3 � million miles all over the world. During that time my exposure to hundreds of airport security scans, especially at international terminals when you get scanned after leaving your aircraft and again when boarding another aircraft had to be dangerous.

Bob Adamski

My husband was diagnosed with MM in Jan.2007.He had two stemcell transplants and chemo.My husband was in the roofing business for 40years.He was exposed to toxic chemicals daily.My husband was very healthy and strong,never sick.His oncologist suggested a link betweed his exposure to glue used to adhere the rubber roofs and the hot tar used.My husband lost his battle with cancer in2012.We live in Colorado with is a "right to work state"with translates to ,NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE WORKERS HEALTH.My husband is dead because of Chemical produceing companys.

I was diagnosed with MM in 2003. In 1997 I had been diagnosed with chronic mercury poisoning attributed to a diet high in tuna and swordfish - large predatory fish known to carry high levels of heavy metals and organic pollutants. In 2005 I was tested for organic pollutants such as those derived from agent orange, benzine, DDT, flame retardants etc. I was found to be quite high in some of the congeners. The story is best told in my book, The Voice of the Dolphins but is also covered on our web page.

I would say the sooner the better on testing 9/11 victims. Even though it�s slow, POPs (persistent organic pollutants) do break down and diminish. Also, if a person loses weight they will mobilize POPs, which are lipophilic, and excrete them.

When I asked toxics expert Arlene Blum about my POPs levels she said �Oh, too bad you didn�t get tested when you were still eating lots of tuna etc. because your values would now be only a shadow of what they may have been.� I had stopped eating large predatory fish in 1997 after being found to have high mercury levels. My test for POPs was run in 2005.

I�m thinking of having myself tested again - 7 years after the last test but the tests are expensive.

I�ve just heard from a top marine mammal toxicologist that there is likely a correlation between levels of mercury and other heavy metals and POPs. There are confounding problems but as a general rule.

I will be getting test results from Peruvian dolphin-eating fishermen by Feb. 21. Our tests for mercury etc. should/could be a proxy for POPs. These fishermen have epidemic incidence of diabetes which Dr. Durie has tied to MM incidence.

Anyway, it's great the IMF is doing this work. Prevention of this disease is better than suppressing it with drugs, even though these drugs have been a godsend to me.

I would be happy to receive information from people who eat a lot of high food chain predatory fish who have MM.

Hardy Jones

Hello, Dr. Durie,

I've seen a national map of the U.S. and the most prevalent states for MM are in the southern states: Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, etc.
And in Mississipi, the "hot" counties are along the Mississipi/Louisiana line. These counties are Marion, Lamar, Pike, Amite, and Walthal. This area is known for dairy farming, growing timber, and petroleum. Also, back in the 60's, the government performed an underground nuclear test at what is called the underground Tatum Salt Dome. I believe this salt dome is located in Lamar County. It seems like to me that is we know that these counties are the "hottest of the hot" for MM, then there should be an epidemiologist study performed in this area. Chemicals have become so ubiquitous in the environment that I am certain that it is caused by a chemical because MM is trending into younger and youmger people and this is because the environment is so toxic, that even newborn babies are born with a "body burden" of chemicals.

I was diagnosed with MM in September of 2008 and underwent an autologous stem cell transplant that December. I've been in remission for a long time, but have blood tests monthly due to a slightly elevated "number". **I strongly recommend that all MM patients have the opportunity to fill out extensive questionnaires so that oncologists can compare histories of a large number of MM patients, and perhaps find similarities which might eventually lead to a "cure". No one has ever asked me anything about my personal history.

I am so sad to read comments of those who have been exposed unknowingly, unwillingly, and/or can't get help from a government that put them in harm's way. I was also exposed to a harmful substance when I lived in Colorado near a uranium mine. My father didn't work in the mine; he was a minister, and we later found (when he was in the hospital being treated for leukemia) that there were many buildings in the town where we had lived that were contaminated by the mill tailings (leftover uranium sand). Some wise guy at a construction company came up with the "bright" idea to use mill tailings in the buildings they were constructing in Grand Junction. The radiation was under our church building, in schools, homes, everywhere. Years later, after lots of people were getting sick and dying, they decided they better clean it up. Sadly, it was too late for my dad, I showed up with MM in 2007 (and had had it for many years), and they only cleaned up as much as they could afford...so, there are still buildings in Grand Junction that are contaminated. What will it take for people to understand that you don't play around with stuff like this?! If it kills bugs, it's probably not good for humans! And if Madame Curie carried radium in her pocket and died after doing so, what makes it safer because it's in sand form?! I'm no rocket scientist, but seriously....

I have been teaching at Solano College,in Suisun, California, which is surrounded by agricultural land in Northern California, near the Delta and about 30 miles from Sacramento. Studies have shown that there are pesticides in the water there, and I believe in the strong wind that often blows across the valley. I used to play tennis for hours in the courts there, even while the ground was overturned from construction, and the wind was blowing fiercely. My myeloma became active in April 09, right after the construction, although Dr. Barlogie said it probably had been smoldering for a long time. Even though the college is quite small, I know of a student, who had been on the baseball team, who was also recently diagnosed with myeloma. There are other kinds of cancers as well. A teacher I taught with had a house which bordered on the campus. Her son was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphona when he was 12, her dog had cancer, and now she has just died from breast cancer. I have had two stem cell transplants, and I am in a good remission, but I am afraid to breathe the air on the one day when I work there now.

I agree there is something in the chemical connection, especially with people working in & around them for many years..... BUT how do you explain some one like myself or a younger person diagnosed with MM? I was 39, never in a chemical type job for 40 plus yrs, yet I did clean my house with chemicals, I painted walls,etc but not near as much as a professional painter, my dad was in Vietnam , not me, and my husband is a pilot but I am not exposed to the aircraft Fuel,etc.... I gained weight after having babies, but lost it. Then gained a bunch of weight after being diagnosed with MM. How do so many folks that are NOT exposed for many yrs to chemicals turn up with MM when many of the people who are exposed via their life long jobs, war chemical exposure do NOT get MM?? I know we all wish we knew what caused MM, and for some we may have the answer but for us few... is it in the food we eat or the water we drink? And if it is.. watch out we will be seeing a lot more folks with MGUS & MM!:(

Hello Dr Durie, I am pretty sure that Myeloma was caused by prolonged exposure to organic solvents. I worked as a chemist my entire life and stubbornly, I rfefused to were a mask while working with these chemicals because the mask was uncomfortable. I have no one to blame but myself.

my dad died of myeloma, as did my dear friend lee grayson who became a bit of a poster child for thalidomide and served so many nation wide over the phone as a clearing house of information giving them support and suggestions based on his personal battle. i remember lee telling me about an epidemiological study in which a map of the nation showing myeloma "hotspots" very closely correlated with an overlay map of the nation's mass burn incinerators. these have gotten much much better in recent years, but were notorious from the 40's through the 90's for spewing dioxins and furans- the chemical family cousins of agent orange. much of this is the result of incomplete combustion of plastics, organochlorides, and other petrochemicals.

I have been extremely war of any chemicals during my life. I am 62 and was diagnosed in 2010. I have had many pets over the years who had flea collars which I now have been told were impregnated with organo-phosphates which have now been banned. I have always bitten my nails so I guess I regularly ingested it. I also lived above a service station for about 6 years and could smell the fumes. I also studied nursing with a wet lab with bodies preserved in either formaldehyde or formalin. Hearing now about rubber tyres and the toxic chemical linked to myeloma. About 15 years ago, I burned a rubber tyre in my backyard with black fumes going everywhere. Someone called the fire brigade because of the mess. I now wonder about all of these exposures and whether one or more than one may have contributed to my myeloma


I am convinced that environmental toxins are the cause of myeloma and other cancers. We were very poor and didn't eat the right foods because we couldn't afford it. Also, there are so many chemicals on foods now that I do not eat a lot of fresh veg. and fruits. Recommended by one of my oncologists. I use cans but then they have chemicals in the can itself. I was diagnosed in 2005 and had a SCT in 2006. My cancer is still there but I am considered in remission because it is a low number. I have a terrible time loosing weight and have been overweight all my life. I'm sure all these components contribute to my health plus the chemo gave me diabetes and neuropathy. I just do the best I can and hope someday soon this will be considered a chronic disease and not an incurable one.

My husband was diagnosed 15 years ago, at the age of 40 with multiple myeloma. He was healthy and training for a marathon. As we looked back to see if there was anything in his history or family history we couldn't find any answers as to the diagnosis of cancer. However, my husband recalls as a young child growing up in south Texas that there were pest control trucks that used to drive through the neighborhoods and spray for mosquitos. He told me he and his friends used to run behind the trucks, because they provided cool air along with the pest control spray. I always wonder if that could be a cause for his multple myeloma.
After reading your article, it seems that it may provide an answer that we had been wondering about for many years.

I had always been in good health till 2004 at age 67 when I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and Amyloidosis. After three treatments of VAD, I was in remission. I never had a transplant because of my heart. They suspected that the amyloidosis had enveloped my heart and was the cause of atrial fibrilation. Within 6 months, I was off all treatment except for a low dose of Thalidomide which I continued as maintenance for three and a half years. My oncologist then told me "You are cured". I don't know what caused the MM but I have accepted his words as truth. I have not had any treatment for MM since we stopped the Thalidomide in 2008 and all my numbers (every 6 months) are stable and normal. The words "remission" and "re-lapse" are not in my vocabulary.

Life is great ! I traveled throughout UK for 5 weeks in 2011, camping in a tent for most of the trip and drove a 1954 Triumph TR2 antique convertible for 23 days with the top down most of the 2088 miles I did.

As a teenager I worked for a farm supply company
and regularly filled 5 gal buckets of DDT from a 50
gallon barrel, needless to say spills were frequent
and I remember going home after work and trying to wash
the DDT odor from my hands. A relative of mine died from
MM and his DR. mentioned his MM could have been caused by his frequent use of DDT on his farm in Montana.
My Question to all "Is there evidence of DDT causing MM?"

My husband died Nov,23 2004 after being diagnosed with MM just 5 months before. He was 51 years old. When he was in high school in the 70's he worked at a fertilizer plant for one summer. At that time people didn't wear masks or any kind of protective gear. His job was to load the bags of fertilizer onto trucks. He told me that dust was thick and flying everywhere while loading. I believe this is what caused his MM. Dr Durie, I contacted you in 2004 to get your opinion on my husbands case. At that point he was on kidney dialysis and didn't have much time left and there was nothing we could do. Thank you for your support at that time and for continuing your work in this area.

As a teenager, I worked with volatile solvents in a furniture factory, and later in my life as an artist I again worked with solvents and resins in making sculpture and paintings.

I think that all cancer patients (on a voluntary basis) should fill out lengthy questionnaires detailing their personal work and environment histories, which then could be put in a database and analyzed. After a million or so case studies, I'm sure that correlations between cancers and causes would emerge, leading to banning or limiting substances, which would prevent many cancer cases.

My husband has MM. He had a stem cell transplant 3 years ago...velcade, etc. The MM has not progressed and he is doing very well. (age 69). He still works full time. My question - "is there a danger in wearing dress shirts daily that have been cleaned and pressed at a dry cleaners?" Thank-you.

My concern about my health has been exposure to asbestos. I was a high school teacher for 24 years in the same school with asbestos insulation. I watched the men in white "space suits" remove it. That is when I wondered what it had done to me. My tenure there began in 1985, and it was in 1995 when it was all removed. Would asbestos have triggered my myeloma diagnosis in 2009?
Hopefully, researchers are moving closer to the triggers.

In my early 20's I breathed the air inside a gray iron foundry for about three years. Later I breathed formaldahyde laden air for 5 years in a particle board lumber mill. I grew up in the San Joaquin valley of CA, where pesticides were used and dust blew from the peet lands. At age 70 I was diangosed with asymptomatic multiple myeloma. I have wondered about a possible accumulative effect from my past that may have lead to my multiple myeloma. It would be a leap to make a causal argument in my case, but if many similar cases exist, then maybe they offer a clue about the situations that contribute to multiple myeloma.

My father was diagnosed in 2004 at the age of 71 after being in perfect health his whole life up to that
point. He worked for 42 years as a chemical technician with regular exposure
to benzene. He started before there were safety regulations. He passed away
in 2008 and we have no doubt his MM was caused by his exposure to chemicals.

Dear Brian,
I am very pleased to hear from you that our modern environment at home and beyond is responsible for the rising incidence of MGUS and Myeloma. Pesonally I have the view that Microwaves from Microwave Ovens and similar equipmets can trigger the malignant transformation of our Plasma Cells as the first case from such a background in a 40 year old Indian born British resident was diagnosed by me while in Leicester Royal Infirmary in 1980. My curiosity turned in this line as I saw the first Microwave Oven in July 1977 just behind this man operating 12to 14 hours every day 7 days aweek as He and his wife were managing this small Indian Restaurant in Leicester. From that incident I grew suspicious about Microwave Ovens and started advising against the liberal use of this equipment in households. Later on I came up with quite a few Myeloma patients in whom such a connection could be proved beyond doubt(definite incidents in 1992 and again in 2006 the latter in 50 year old lady who relapsed her Myeloma after Thalidomide based Chemo & Stem Cell autograft). I even discussed my concerns with one of the authorities involved in UK Myeloma trials and gave my suggestion to introduce a patientvquestionare relating to use of equipments like Microwave Ovens, Induction Cookers and others emitting reasonable amounts of microwaves at home or at work. Personally I got scared Microwave Ovens and discouraged my family and friends from using them.

I discovered the plates I used for 15 years daily in my microwave oven were NON Microwavable. The word "non" was on a different line in the message and I did not see it. Now I am 69 and I have multiple myeloma. Could this be a contributing factor?

My husband, a retired Lt. Col, flew above the "ranch hands" while they distributed Agent Orange in Vietnam . This exposure, I believe, was instrumental in his diagnoses of MM in 2010. We are still waiting for the Veterans Administration to make a determination that his disability is service related.

Good luck with the VA. My father, a Marine Major was diagnosed in December 2007 and in early 2008 the VA approved his disability based on his exposure to Agent Orange during his tour of Vietnam. It seems as though it's taking too long for you to get the VA approval.

We were stationed on Okinawa from 1963 thru 1967. He was conceived and born on Okinawa. We lived on base at Kadena AFB for 3 years. Agent Orange was stored on Kanena for the Viet Nam situation! As a toddler he crawled around in it at the family parks on the base! It was used on base to kill weeds. Forty five years later, July 12th, 2009,was diagnoised with stage 4 myeloma! Medical advise says it can take up to 45 years for it to take its toll! He is now 48 years old. Had a stem cell transplant Dec of 2011. Was in remission for 1 year and 4 months. It came back! We have almost given up on our government giving him any financial help. All they do is transfer us from one agency to another. They say "sorry no help available to dependents! He has been married 22 years. He is asking the Lord to keep him alive long enough to see both daughters graduate from high school. He also prays that through this journey both girls will come to know the Lord in a personal way!

A mothers heart,

Sue Collins

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