Chronic health problems from last year's vegetable garden

alaria121February 11, 2010

Hi everyone!

This is the first time that I have seen your forum and I am hoping that someone here might be able to answer some questions for me or direct me to right locations. I apologize in advance for the length of my story but I'm hoping that some of it might ring a bell in someone's knowledge.

I rented and moved onto a small hobby farm a year ago in southwest Minnesota and was very excited to plant my first vegetable garden there. The garden plot had been on the property for decades and only seemed to need to be tilled for planting. The garden plot is 50' by 200' and I knew that the previous year it had been rented out to a local commercial farmer and planted in wheat. The property had been bought the year prior by a rental agency, who renovated the house. The previous owner was an elderly man in his 90's, who had been renting out his fields around my little section for several decades. It is all commercial farming in this area, with a typical rotation of corn, soybeans, and wheat.

I had variable results last year with my garden. My root vegetables in general did not grow well. As an example my onions never got more than an inch in diameter. While my peas themselves looked and tasted ok, the pods were often covered with some type of blight (it almost looked like a white mildew). Other vegetables seemed to grow wonderfully. I had an over abundance of cauliflower, broccoli, cabbages, cucumbers, and different types of lettuce and spinach. My big boy tomatoes seemed to develop some kind of rot from the bottom of the tomato and most of them ended up being thrown away. However, I had another variety of tomato (I don't remember the name)that seemed to over-produce, which was also true for my cherry tomato plants as well. I do not like using pesticides or herbicides in my gardens, and so was pleasantly surprised that I had very few weeds or insects to deal with. My 11 chickens learned early how to fly over their fence and they were often in the garden. I assumed they were eating the bugs and the young weeds.

By the end of July I was eating much of my food from my garden along with the chicken eggs. I was feeling great and losing weight. I'm 5 feet, 8 inches tall and in the middle of July I weighed 165 pounds, which had been my typical weight for more than 10 years. My garden continued to produce way into September. By the middle of September I was down to 145 pounds, but I was still feeling good. I attributed the welcome weight loss to better eating and working hard around the farm after work hours.

By the end of September I was down to 135 and starting to feel tired all the time and I realized that I had completely lost my appetite. When I looked back, I realized I hadn't actually felt hungry since the beginning of August. I often had to be reminded to eat by my family. By the beginning of October, I was nauseated a lot of the time, always felt cold, had trouble remembering things, and was sleeping way more than was typical for me. My doc thought it was a virus that I couldn't shake as blood checks came back normal for the most part. Nothing he had me try seemed to help the symptoms. (these were not all of my symptoms, just the ones that I can remember at this moment).

I continued to lose between 1 and 3 pounds a week and by the middle of October was forced to go on full medical leave from my job as a psychologist. At that point I was down to 124 pounds and my symptoms became compounded by severe malnutrition. I had become a walking ghost, unable to concentrate even to follow a simple TV show, comprehend anything I read, or drive safely. I was sleeping an average of 16-18 hours throughout the course of the day. I was tested and evaluated by numerous specialists for different types of cancers, brain disorders, thyroid problems, hormonal problems, emotional problems but all the tests kept coming back normal.

My weight loss stabilized at about 123-124 pounds, however I was still extremely ill. I was sent to the Mayo Clinic for a week in the middle of December and it was there that one of the docs had me tested for lead, mercury, and arsenic poisoning, as many of my original symptoms were consistent with some type of environmental contamination. In order to get accurate results from many of the blood tests they wanted to get, I had to be taken off many of my medications for 6 weeks, as they would have invalidated the results. The idea of seeing a toxicologist was brought up but it was determined by the docs to wait until I came back for the 6 week follow-up, which happened at the end of January. It was an unpleasant surprise to myself and my husband, as well as the docs at the Mayo Clinic, to find out at that appointment that the Mayo clinic does not have a toxicology department or a toxicologist on staff. The only suggestion they could give me was to have my family doctor look at the University of Minnesota for a toxicologist as they were pretty certain that my original symptoms had been caused by soil contamination due to the constellation of symptoms and the timeline of my illness, which meshed with my garden.

I have since found out that my garden plot had in fact been rented out for the past 20-30 years and had been heavily commercially planted, with a wide array of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers used. It's impossible to know exactly what was sprayed or tilled into the ground as different people rented out the garden area at different times. I know that I need to get the soil tested to see if by this point, anything still shows up. Right now the ground is completely frozen and covered in about 3 feet of snow. I am planning on having it tested in the spring, when it thaws.

I continue to struggle with the after effects of whatever made me sick to begin with. It's caused havoc with my peripheral nervous system, cardiovascular system, and GI tract. I've developed gallstones and short-term memory problems. Over the past several weeks however, I've noticed that I'm awake more often during the day and I'm feeling more like myself, which my doc attributes to the toxins slowly leaving my system. After 4 months of medical leave, I finally was able to return to work yesterday, but only at 24 hours a week. I'm on an appetite stimulant (probably not something that's going to be advertised on TV, alongside the Jenny Craig or Weight Loss commercials). Since I started taking it 2 months ago, I've only gained back 4 pounds, though I am eating more. I guess 128 pounds isn't so bad for someone my height..... :P

I apologize again for the rather lengthy synopsis but I'm hoping that someone will recognize a pattern within some of the symptoms and might be able to suggest some possibilities of what might have poisoned me. My doctors are very capable and competent but their attitude at this point seems to be "You're starting to get better, we know it was most likely from your garden, and whatever it was seems to be finally working its way out of your system, so lets be happy with that". There are a few toxicologists in Minnesota but they are all out-of-network for my medical insurance. Consequently, all those bills will have to be paid for out of pocket, which after having been on a 4 month, mostly unpaid medical leave, will be difficult financially. Given that, I'm hoping to have some concrete ideas before I have the appointment.

Question 2: Can anyone tell me what the typical or average time frame it takes for commercially applied chemicals to work their way out of the soil, if ever? Can commercially planted ground ever be safely turned back into home vegetable gardens and if so, how and over what time frame?

Question 3: Could the heavy use of chemicals (which I now know were used, I just don't know what types) explain the quirks I saw in the garden last year, such as the root vegetables not growing and the lack of bugs or weeds?

Any and all help, thoughts, and suggestions are very much appreciated at this point. It's been a very long road so far and I am still a long way from being healed so it would be nice to start to find some answers. (I also apologize for any typos or missing words. The later it gets in the evening, the more tired I get and the more cognitive issues creep in).

Thanks again for any and all help you can send my way. :)

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This part of your post struck me as very familiar.....

"By the end of September I was down to 135 and starting to feel tired all the time and I realized that I had completely lost my appetite. When I looked back, I realized I hadn't actually felt hungry since the beginning of August. I often had to be reminded to eat by my family. By the beginning of October, I was nauseated a lot of the time, always felt cold, had trouble remembering things, and was sleeping way more than was typical for me. My doc thought it was a virus that I couldn't shake as blood checks came back normal for the most part. Nothing he had me try seemed to help the symptoms. (these were not all of my symptoms, just the ones that I can remember at this moment)."

Unfortunately, I had almost exactly the same symptoms, had had my thyroid taken out and attributed it to that plus "maybe" waking pneumonia.

Not to scare you but I found out, almost by accident, that I have acute lymphoblastic leukemia which they THINK may have "blossomed" from a case of Chronic Leukemia that I could have had for a while but had not been diagnosed.

I had had CBC in April (normal) one for thyroid surgery (nothing showed up) exactly three months before I was dianosed, with blood counts out the wazoo. Like 84000 for my white count.

What got me to the doctor was absolutely having no energy, but again thinking my thyroid meds needed to be adjusted.

Not the greatest thing to read or go through but you paragraph that I quoted just sounded SO familiar!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 7:45AM
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Were you the only one that ate produce from this garden? What about the rest of your family? Any odd/unexplained symptoms with them?

Most synthetic pesticides do breakdown in the soil and rather rapidly at that, as does chemical fertilization. It only requires a few years (3-5 is typical) of avoidance of any synthetic chemicals for a farm/garden to be qualified as organic. It is possible that there could be some accumulations of heavy metals but they would have to be present in very high concentrations for you to display symptoms that rapidly - typically the body accummulates them over an extended period of time. And adults tend to assimilate them better than small children. It would be highly unusual for you to exhibit symptoms but no one else in the family

You could certainly have your soil tested for contaminates but unless you know specifically what to test for, the expense of such testing will be high.

I'd be rather suspicious that your garden was the root of your illness - it may very well have contributed to your symptoms but I seriously doubt it was the cause.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 9:07AM
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I forgot to mention my family in the post. I was the only one living out here on the farm. I had moved out to the rural area as part of a federal loan repayment program. I worked out here during the week and went back home on the weekends to our house up in the Twin Cities. My husband stayed up there due to his job and our two children are both adults and living on thier own. So yes, I was the only one really eating from the garden, except for the odd tomato or two and such that I brought home on weekends. None of the rest of the family were vegetable eaters anyway.

One of the diseases I was checked several times for was Leukemia, as weight loss and fatigue are hallmark symptoms, however, there has never been any indication of it thankfully. Still leaves me totally in the dark however.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 9:46AM
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I wonder if you can find out who was farming the land before you. Find out what fertilizers they used. Farmers file tax returns, and the receipts for the fertilizer should be in their tax returns.

Maybe grow some crops and feed them to pigs to see if they suffer the same fate.

Good thing you've got title insurance.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 11:07AM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

This is so sad alaria! You have been through so much without many answers or solutions.

I deal with this stuff all the time, as an environmental chemist overseeing hazardous waste site cleanups for the state. I am not a toxicologist, but my work is not far from it and the goal of it is to prevent exactly the type of thing that might have happened to you.

So apparently you were tested for metals, but what were the results? Did anyone compare the results to acceptable levels? It does not take a toxicologist to do that.

Here is a link to ATSDR, the federal agency responsible for disseminating information on environmental toxins.

Note there are 'most viewed toxic substances' right on the home page. Click on Aresnic, for example, and it gives you a bunch of links. I recommend the Tox Guide sheets for each toxin, which summarize toxic effects in two pages. It also gives acceptable ranges in blood for each one.

I was all ready to tell you how to get your soil tested first, and you still may want to do that, but I am very curious about the blood test results first. I get this done every year as part of my work, since I spend time on contaminated sites. If you did not have a metals problem, then it gets more complicated, with the pesticides.

Keep talking and maybe we'll be able to help you figure something out.


    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 11:26AM
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In your situation, I would be taking soil samples and having them tested. Most pesticides breakdown into harmless components in a year or two, but some might take longer. If there is heavy metal contamination, it will not break down, it will remain in the soil. My best guess is that you were exposed to high concentration of herbicide. Some of these can persist in the soil for three years.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 11:27AM
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Fertilizers applied in any reasonable concentration to grow harvestable crops will not produce the illness symptoms described above - if that were the case, 95% of the population would be suffering from similarly declining health. Moreover, based on the history of the property the OP described, it sounds like major detective work to determine who farmed what when and what fertilizers or other chemical applications may have been used. And I am still unconvinced that this would have any major bearing on the OP's illness.

I also don't see what possible benefit title insurance would do for the issue - it's only purpose is to protect the owner's/lender's financial interest in the property against loss due to title defects (improper or illegal transfers of property) or liens. (Former mortgage banker here :-))

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 11:39AM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Very good points gardengal, I was thinking the same things but did not take time to mention.

And with respect to ericwi's post, if there were high concentrations of herbicides, your garden would not have grown at all. But you had good performance from most things. The blossom end rot on the one tomato variety is probably just Mg deficiency that that variety is particularly susceptible to. The poor root crops like onions might have to do with a nutrient deficiency - phosphorus for example. A $15 nutrient test from County Ag Extension would discover that.

I'm thinking, if it's the soil at all, and it's not metals, that the 90 yr. old guy could have used massive quantities of the older persistent pesticides like heptachlor, chlordane, DDT etc. and they are still hanging around. But the metals should be eliminated first.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 12:48PM
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Given that you are starting to feel better, it might not be worth the effort to test the soil for every possible toxic agricultural chemical that might be found there. That sounds like an expensive proposition. About the only way for you to recover the cost of such an exercise would be for you to write a book about this entire ordeal, and get it published.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 1:41PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Maybe, maybe not. We are operating with limited info here. *If* this has anything to do with soil at all, and is not some other medical condition not yet identified, it would certainly be worthwhile to know what it was. And the symptoms do sound more like acute poisoning than chronic low level exposure with slightly increased risk of cancer over a lifetime, which would be more typical of a contaminated soil to vegetable to human pathway.

As far as 'testing for everything', ag chemicals are divided into groups for that, so you get all the chlorinated pesticides in one shot, the carbamates in another, azines in another and so on. At $100+ for each group, it's still expensive, but it's all relative - imagine what toxicologist visits plus blood analysis for the same things would cost - much more.

But one step at a time here, I say.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 1:53PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

It was suggested "I would be taking soil samples and having them tested."

That works only if you tell the lab which specific pesticides (active ingredients) to test for.

Beyond that, the veggie problems sound to be cultural blips. For instance, the rotted tomatoes are blossom end rot. The limited fruiting &/or growth could have been due to erratic weather, and/or irrigation problems (too much or too little), and the like.

Then,too, it would help to know what you did to prepare the soil before planting.
Did you dig, then plant immediately?
Or did you add something to the soil first?
If the latter, what and how much?
Then did you plant the same day, or later. If later, how long did you wait?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 4:16PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Are you still on the farm or back in the Twin Cities? And did anything else change besides eating garden veggies that resulted in you feeling better? I ask in order to rule out things like the water supply or a "sick" house (mold, fumes, etc).


    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 5:53PM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

Was there a Meth lab on the property? They are an epidemic here in rural Mn and leave horrible chemicals dumped all over often times contaminating the well

There was a local person here that had moved into a house like that a fell very ill but it was years ago so I don't remember the symtoms But it would be well worth a call to the sheriffs dept to ask Had you moved into the house right after the old man or was there other renters

It could be ag chemicals but pretty doubtfull as the old guy did't get that old by accident But you could be very sensitive to a certain thing

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 7:35PM
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Test the veggies :) Sorry to hear that your health has faded, are you still on the forum? Are you still improving?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 9:06PM
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I thought of a meth lab, too. But also had a friend move into a newly renovated house that had been tented for bugs ... she opened a cupboard and got a huge dose of whatever they used to kill bugs. Didn't affect husband ... Wiped out her immune system.... went down hill, with Drs telling her it was all in her mind, etc. But after years of a very limited diet, she has recovered.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 9:07PM
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Thanks everyone for your thoughts and suggestions. They are very helpful in looking for answers. I was able to do some more checking today on the history of the property and found out information that likely complicates the puzzle.

The land that the properties lies on slopes gradually downhill from left to right. Behind the house and the outbuildings, maybe 70 feet or so, the land abruptly drops off into a very deep, heavily wooded gorge. When the house was first built, about 110 years ago, the gorge was all grassland. It also became the dumping ground for all of the garbage and farm waste and it accumulated over the years. There is even an old combine tractor, which looked like was just driven over the edge of the gorge. Old tv's, stoves, radios, water heaters, tires, bottles and tins of all sizes were just a sample of things that can be seen from the top of the gorge. There is also a wide variety of farm equipment and machinery and various drums and large barrel sized, partially rotted metal containers. I have no idea what is buried further down in the gorge, its impossible to get back into it without fear of injury. Though I wasn't crazy about the idea of it being that close to the house, farms for rent are hard to find in this part of the country, and because of the woods, you can't even see it until you are almost at the lip of the gorge. Plus, the well was relatively new, just a couple of years old and had been tested as being safe. It does have a relatively high level of iron in it, though I was told it was still ok to use, however a water softener was strongly recommended. Since I had no intention of going rock climbing and the water was safe, I figured that the pros of renting the property outweighed the cons.

This is where things start to get interesting. The new well was dug closer to the left side of the property, consequently more uphill from all the mess in the gorge. It's also very shallow, so much so that if the outside spigot is being used, I lose all water in the house. I've always used bottled water for cooking and drinking because even with the water softener and a Brita filter, it still smelled faintly of sulfur.

The old well, used until about 4 years ago, was to the far right of the property and much closer to the edge of the gorge. It was also very deep. Essentially, it was pulling water from deeper and downhill from all of the waste slowly rotting into the ground. It was this water that up until the new well was dug 4 years ago, was used to irrigate the small field that I used as my garden plot last year, as it didn't have its own irrigation system.

I was tested for heavy metals at the Mayo Clinic during my first visit in the middle of December. However, it was only a blood test screening for the most common metals: lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. By that point, I had been living back up in the Twin Cities for nearly 7 weeks, so the only thing the docs at the Mayo could say for sure from the results was that it most likely wasn't lead poisoning. Hence, why they strongly recommended a workup, to include hair and fingernail clipping testing, by a toxicologist as apparently the other metals don't stick around in the blood very long, migrating instead into various organs and cells.

Long story short, there could very well be some heavy metal contamination in the soil as well. I also found out that there were quite a few chemicals used extensively in this area, including Chlordane and DDT, before they were banned.

To answer some of the other questions asked, the old man who owned the property previously had been born here and had remained single his whole life. He passed away shortly after he sold the property and there are no apparent close relatives, so there is no available information about the farm from him. I do know that the ground hadn't been used as a personal vegetable garden since before WWII, when he inherited it from his parents. It had been commercially planted every year since the early 1940's, until last year, when I planted my garden.

The only thing I added to the soil was a water solution of MiracleGro, when I first either transplanted or seeded the ground. I've never liked using commercial chemicals, and try to avoud them as much as possible, in large part because I have a dog and multiple barn cats that roam the entire farm, including the garden area. Oh..and the chickens, of course.

There is no evidence of a meth lab being on the property. Being a psychologist, that was one of the things I first questioned as well.

As far as the house goes, though it's over 100 years old, the bottom floor was gutted to the drywall, with a new kitchen and bathroom installed. When the windows were replaced last summer, you could see the shredded newspaper that had been used to help insulate the house. They did find bats up in the attic, so the entire 2nd floor and attic were completely gutted to the outside walls, making those areas essentially a brand new house. It's possible that mold or mildew could be inside the walls of the first floor, but I had moved into the house in November of 2008, and didn't start getting sick until around the middle of July, so the time frame doesn't really fit.

I hadn't realized that it was going to be so expensive to have the soil tested, so I agree that it will be better to spend the money to get the toxicology results first, especially given the fact that I now know that there could be some, or all, component of heavy metal contamination.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 10:42PM
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There was a situation in Washington State where the laws were changed to allow certain contaminants to exist in fertilizer. I've forgotten what the reasoning was for allowing toxins in fertilizer, but evidently it sounded good to some legislators, so they allowed it.

The results were predictable, contaminated soil and poisoned crops.

That dump being uphill from the soil is another concern. Are there any chemical plants nearby?

I remember how they were dumping toxic waste onto an old farm next to the neighborhood I lived in in New York State. The stuff caught fire and that brought out the authorities. I'm not certain that any laws were broken at the time (1960's) but it certainly was a mess. Later they built a neighborhood there. This was in Rockland County, just north of New York City, not Love Canal.

My point is that someone could have dumped some keypone or PCB's or some other witch's brew into that ravine. That's where my comment about title insurance comes from. But if you're a renter, your only recourse is to sue the landowner.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 11:10PM
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To know that the water from the two wells on the property is safe, you would have to pull samples, and have them checked for a wide spectrum of possible contaminants. This would be far over and above the standard test for coliform bacteria, and nitrates. Your well water might be safe for bathing, or it might not.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 12:31AM
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There was a situation in Washington State where the laws were changed to allow certain contaminants to exist in fertilizer. I've forgotten what the reasoning was for allowing toxins in fertilizer, but evidently it sounded good to some legislators, so they allowed it.
The results were predictable, contaminated soil and poisoned crops.

Whoa!!....let's back up here. Heavy metals and other toxins have always been included (and allowed) as 'tag alongs' in various concentrations with synthetic chemical fertilizers and even with various so-called organic products (i.e. recycled biosolids) regardless of where they are sold. This is NOT unique to WA state. With the exception of labeling requirements and nutrient analysis, fertilizer regulations are on a state by state, not federal level.

What IS unique to WA state is that a recognition of this fact and a concern for consumer health (WA is a heavily agricultural state) prompted legislation to restrict the amount of heavy metals that could be contained in these products over and above EPA safety guidelines. Washington - always in the forefront of environmental issues - was the first state to enact such legislation (now followed by California, Oregon and Texas). Further, all fertilizers sold in WA state must be tested for heavy metals and those findings clearly posted on the fertilizer packaging and online. Many other states do not have the same degree of fertilizer regulation.

No "contaminated soil" or "poisoned crops" were involved. Just a preemptive concern for the well-being of its citizens.

My point is that someone could have dumped some keypone or PCB's or some other witch's brew into that ravine. That's where my comment about title insurance comes from. But if you're a renter, your only recourse is to sue the landowner.

Again, title insurance has nothing to do with what may or may not be in the soil or how the property was previously used/abused. And it is a moot point in this case, anyway. And as a renter, I'm not sure you have any recourse.....other than to move.

To the OP: I feel for you and your ongoing health issues. And I understand your quest to find answers for your problems. But I do not think that an online gardening forum with all its half-baked theories and considerable misinformation is the best place to find these answers. You need professional intervention, whether with physicians and further medical testing or through your state's agencies that oversee land use, dumping and toxic waste. This is just not the right place to get the help you need.

Good luck and my wishes for continued improvement of your health.

idaho gardener, I suggest you research your facts before posting further.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 11:15AM
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It could be an allergy and the easiest way to test that theory is to take over the counter antihistamines and see if your condition improves. It is a long shot, but worth a try.

About 30 years ago, I inadvertently inhaled Mavrik insecticide. Not only did I have an initial allergic reaction, but, it also caused me to become allergic to many other things. This allergy continued for 5 years and I still have some sensitivity. My main symptom was a sore throat and painful neck muscles. I also lost some weight. Initially, over the counter antihistamines worked, but I developed a tolerance. Eventually, only the expensive prescription drug, histmanal, worked.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 12:49PM
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gardengal, try this link. The case is about Cenex Supply and Marketing and issues found in Quincy, WA.

From the article;

Based on industry research that said the material was safe, state officials in Washington, Oregon and Idaho allowed the waste to be sold as "CalMag" and "AlMag" fertilizers and "Road Clear" de-icer.

I'll have to get back to you on the title insurance matter. My books on the subject are at home. Failure to disclose know defects with property is at issue.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 3:15PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

While you are testing your blood and the soil, make sure you get the well water tested too.

Your symptoms are more of a toxic exposure, not a chronic exposure.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 3:46PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Your symptoms sound very similar to a toxic overload that my sister suffered when unbeknownst to her, the boiler malfunctioned and puffed back soot into her home. Then a strange mold grew onto the soot. The soot and mold covered nearly everything in the house. She recovered after her home was remediated for the soot and mold - special cleaning, painting, the carpets pulled up, etc. Anything that couldn't be properly cleaned had to be thrown away or replaced.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 4:05PM
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idaho gardener, the article linked dates from before the Washington legislation was enacted. It is also not specific to Washington state so I'm not suure why you singled out WA:

In Gore, Okla., a uranium-processing plant is getting rid of low-level radioactive waste by licensing it as a liquid fertilizer and spraying it over 9,000 acres of grazing land.

In Tifton County, Ga., more than 1,000 acres of peanut crops were wiped out by a brew of hazardous waste and limestone sold to unsuspecting farmers

To my knowledge, neither of these states have fertilizer legislation similar to Washington's.

"Failure to disclose" is not covered by title insurance unless the failure relates specifically to title issues (ownership of the property). And the key word(s) in the statement otherwise is "known material defects". If the previous owner was unaware any problems existed - and in this case, that issue is definitely unconfirmed - then there is no failure to disclose. Hard to prove different in many cases. And the buyer has a responsibility for due diligence as well before purchasing the property.

However, as stated previously, that issue is moot in the case of rental property and a landlord/tenant relationship.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 4:29PM
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gardengal writes; "idaho gardener, I suggest you research your facts before posting further."

From the book, Fateful Harvest, about toxic fertilizer in Washington State. The issue was first investigated by Patty Martin of Quincy, Wa. The matter is then reported in the Seattle newspapers. Some quotes;

"Patty Martin discovers, for example, a proposed state rule for disposing of cement kiln dust by using it as agricultural lime."

"Although Cenex claims it will not sell the grass, its Quincy manager John Williams sells it to a neighbor for her horses. Several of the horses die. Meanwhile, DeYoung hires lawyers, but does not make much headway against Cenex, which has the state government on its side."

"They eventually discover that the ubiquitous practice of mixing tailings and other industrial waste with fertilizer is an accepted and even encouraged way to recycle waste with some zinc or iron."

"Wilson finds that in 1988 Camp had been instrumental in creating the loopholes in the which allowed heavy metals in fertilizers to go unregulated."

"Governor Locke of Washington initially seems willing to tackle the problem, but Washington state ends up with an industry-written bill with no labeling requirements (toxicity information would be put on websites) and looser standards than Canada."

The attached link to a Wikipedia article about the matter makes it much more clear. I stand my what I said, Washington State officials allowed, and even encouraged the practice of using toxic waste in fertilizer.

gardengal, you are the one who couldn't be more wrong, and you might consider your own words.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fateful_Harvest

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 7:19PM
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I really didn't mean to start an arguement between anyone on this forum. I was just looking for some possible directions from individuals that I thought might have more information about soil contamination that I have. I have an appt for the end of next week at an Occupational and Environmental Medicine Clinic, with a MD toxicologist, who hopefully will help me figure out what I was poisoned with, as so far that is all the specialists that I have seen so far have been able to determine, that it was indeed some type of toxic or environmental exposure. What I have since discovered is that toxic or environmental poisoning is not typically thought of when someone becomes extremely ill, unless their job brings them into direct contact with potentially dangerous chemicals. I apologize for causing tension on the board; that was definately not my intention, and I appreciate the suggestions and ideas. Hopefully the toxicologist that I see next Friday will be able to help me figure out what made me sick in the first place, and more importantly, which of the long term effects I'm still struggling with will improve over time, and which ones are likely to be unfortunately permanent.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 7:47PM
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I hope you'll keep us posted on what you find. As you can see from response to your post, there are a lot of variables that each of us has dealt with. Many health professionals are as clueless as we are, given the vast spectrum of causes that our modern life presents. Someone also encouraged you to "write a book" .... well, maybe not that extensive, but surely an article.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 9:14PM
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alaria, my apologies if our bickering has made you uncomfortable.

Even though gardengal and I are in a pissing match to see who gets the last word, I have learned more about just how toxic fertilizer is likely to be, thanks to your inquiry. I'd say your question is one of the most illuminating and thought/research provoking questions I've seen here in quite a while.

This has been a refreshing break from the usual chatter about compost, etc.

For example, I learned that a product I see on the shelf at the big-box stores, Ironite, which is labeled as 'environmentally safe', is made from toxic waste and is loaded with arsenic and lead. Canada has banned it.

I have attached a link.

So, I hope you can suffer with my irascible insistence that fertilizer is often dangerous, and could very well be what has made you so sick.

Here is a link that might be useful: Toxic Ironite fertilizer

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 9:34PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

You have nothing to apologize for, alaria121. This was an interesting thread and I'm glad you shared your experience. Please keep us posted.


    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 9:36PM
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Alaria121, I hope your next meeting with the toxicologist goes well, and that you are able to find a clear cause for the symptoms you are having. I think it was appropriate for you to post your original inquiry on this forum, because it allowed many people who have dealt with similar situations to respond. It is true that we are in no position to know exactly what you were exposed to, and our comments have to be read critically. Even so, there could be something useful to you in this thread. We all have to deal with exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment, so this thread might be helpful to others, as well. Some, but not all of your symptoms match those of a neighbor of mine who found out that her house was infested with mold. She had to move to regain her health. I am glad that you are beginning to feel better, & I hope that you continue to improve.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 1:55AM
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idaho gardener......what you are continuing to raise issues about is OLD news. It's a lot like resurrecting the alarm about asbestos in vermiculite - it was a problem once upon a time but steps have been taken to correct the situation and it is no longer the issue you seem so insistant to make it be.

And again, you cannot single out WA state. This practice was prevalent across the country and still is in many places. Do the doggone research before you jump to conclusions!! And you seem to want to ignore that, in recognition that there may be serious issues in what was being applied to our agricultural soils, Washington was the first state to enact any kind of legislation to identify and restrict heavy metals and toxic substances in commercial fertilizers. And still remains one of only a handful of states to do so.

That's what I mean about researching your facts. What you are making such a stink about is no longer valid. If you are going to take issue with a specific situation, like fertilizers contaminated with toxic waste, make sure you know enough about the situation to report it accurately and fairly. And for heaven's sake, at least try to be current!

Alaria121, I also apologize for taking this off-topic. But too much inaccurate information gets bandied about on these forums and when blatant misstatements are made, I have trouble letting them go without correction or clarification. Afterall, these forums are intended for the exchange of information and I am only trying to contribute in small part to the accuracy of the information presented.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 11:11AM
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I appreciate the suggestions and ideas.

Are you going to try taking antihistamines or not? It is an inexpensive test for allergies and it could make you feel better in several days. Except for a few dollars, what do you have to lose by trying?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 11:20AM
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I have one suggestion: Do not take medical advice from a compost forum.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2010 at 1:23PM
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Sorry to hear of your health problems.
My husband has focused on the remodeling
issue. Within the past several years,
certain drywall imported from China has
been found to be a source of poisoned
vapor which releases into the home. I'm
not sure of the symptons but it may be
something to research. Good Luck, Colleen

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 9:58AM
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I would contact your local health department to have your well tested for inorganics (which will show heavy metals if they're there), SOC's (pesticides basically), and VOC's (petroleum products and solvents mostly).

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 11:20AM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

I was away for a couple days and this thread sure did grow legs!

I should have thought of the water supply as well. Not only the county but the state department of health should be able to help with this kind of thing. If it's found you have a contaminated well, the next thing is to get the department of natural resources involved. They should have authority and responsibility to sample the soil and groundwater and determine if there's been a release of some sort. But you would have to have some evidence first, like contaminated well water.

I don't want to digress too much into the 'toxic fertilizer' thing, although I could go on for awhile, but the issue with toxics in fertilizers usually involves pretty low levels that would take years and years to build up to a level high enough in soil to cause the kind of symptoms you had. Because of long-term buildup, it's not an issue to be ignored in the grand scheme of things, but I don't see it as relevant here. The house, the water or some other cause are much more likely.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 3:11PM
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I have one suggestion: Do not take medical advice from a compost forum.
Hilarious and also the most valuble comment in the entire discussion. Two thumbs way up!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 4:58PM
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I know ;-)
Isn't Lloyd great ;-)

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 6:35PM
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The cost of seeing the toxicologist should only be the office visit. This should be partially covered by your insurance since even though out of network, can usually be submitted for partial coverage. Check with your insurance but often you can submit your receipt and get 30-40% of the visit covered.
The labs should still be covered, just like if you went to any in-network physician. Just make sure the toxicologist uses an in-network lab.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2010 at 12:34PM
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Okay, no doctor here, but do your fingernails look normal? I believe arsenic poisoning very frequently causes horizontal lines called Mees lines to form in your fingernail due to abnormal growth during the period of time that arsenic poisoning occurred.

The only other thing that comes to mind for me is the possiblity of a tick borne illness. This sounds very similar to lyme's disease.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 11:12PM
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heather38(6a E,Coast)

I have found this interesting to read and was an Occupational Health Advisor in the UK, I am happy to see you are seeing a Occupational and Environmental Medicine Clinic, as if it is the same as the UK we would see the person take a whole history and then look at the workplace, I went to many farms and even a Zoo in the UK and am happy to report that we never found anything sinister, just easy to put right problems, in fact the worst farm related workplace issue I have seen was 12 nurses, who absorbed organophosphates though their skin from a patient who had attempted suicide by drinking it, it was excreted through the patients skin and waste products, however, in light of any significant findings to date, and you may not like this, have you considered mild depression or post viral syndrome?
all the symptoms can be attributed to these, even the physical ones,
depression, isolated 5 days a week, new environment, and work,
post viral can take many months even in extreme cases years to recover, I feel I have to put them into the pot, as they are not "sexy" or "interesting" but they are common and so most likely.
and given that the old boy lived to 90, working the land, if there was something in the soil, he would have absorbed it through his skin, even if he wasn't eating the produce, so it is less likely to be that.
good luck hope you sort it out before this growing season.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 11:37AM
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I bet a physician would promise never to give you gardening advice if you would promise NOT to take medical advice from gardeners.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 11:51AM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Heather's suggestion is worth a follow-up. Far better than self-medicating as some others have suggested.

Depression can easily complicate a person life, and may cause strange & unusual symptoms.

Beyond that, the plant problems could all have been physiological and/or cultural.

Consider these scenarios:
Begin with little or no soil preparation. (We haven't heard what was done there.) Then toss in irrigation - too much, too little for the soil & weather & plants at hand; or was it erratic, and thus ineffective. Also add the prevailing weather -- how did that affect things? (Every growing season is different.)

Then proceed to individual comments made by OP. Perhaps some of the following are the responses.
Tomato rot surely sounds like blossom end rot; perhaps the onions were small because they lacked sufficient water and/or fertilizer, plus they may have been crowded,m or just the wrong kind for the region; root crops may have been small because of crowding and or inadequate or no soil prep.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 12:52PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

I do think we are getting a bit far afield suggesting potential diagnoses. If our friend ended up at Mayo Clinic with an undiagnosed illness, I don't think a bunch of gardeners are going to figure out in this forum something that they couldn't with hours of testing and patient interviews and medical history, none of which we have.

I await further developments!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2010 at 11:40AM
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Many MDs are not morally above taking advantage of desperate people by selling them unneeded expensive medical tests and procedures. After paying a bunch of MDs a fortune to fail, desperate people will take advice from anyone and rightfully so.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2010 at 12:12PM
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heather38(6a E,Coast)

Jean001, and struwwelpeter, thanks, for the support and jean I too have been there done that, a real illness, and not a weakness. you don't see the man with diabetes being told, just get on with it! go on have a chocolate! the mind is a organ as much as all the others but far more complexed it control's the whole body, lot more to go wrong!
I popped it into the pot, because what the OP did was not unusual,for me, but I was especially interested as they said they are a psychologist, And that got me first, forget the rest of the history, why a federal loan repayment program? then get got back to the symptoms and history.
I hope she comes back but, having sat with hundreds of people sitting in front of me with sheaths of paper printed off the internet in order to tell me, say the 10th medical person they had consulted that they don't have post viral or depression, and to read the stuff! some was very dodgy, in praise of Garden Web people, almost everything suggested, was a possible? the only one I didn't see, I mentioned as in organophosphates, in low doses, but as a girl who spent a summer in Kenya jumping up and down on sheep in a sheep dip, I didn't suffer...maybe the future?
So back to the plot, I also read lots of posts on forums and chat rooms which people we had been advising had posted to, we knew their workplace was a problem but as in they where isolated, too much work, not enough work (true you hear of burn out, we called this rust out) being bullied all sorts.
but for some reason if you say yes I think you are depressed or post viral, people will look for another answer, and I suspect the OP was told one of these, and came to find an answer which that not that.
If this is the case and you come back, go back to basics and work up from there, good luck OP. you are normal, in fact better than normal :-)
but for your own piece of mind and mine still go to the professionals.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 10:54PM
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oldmainer(z5 Maine)

It sounds like a Voodoo curse to me. Franklin

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 8:35AM
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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

The lack of bugs and weeds, to me, raised a red flag immediately, that there are residues of pesticides in the garden. A healthy garden soil is going to support weeds and bugs. Chickens are good, but not that good. DDT residues stick around for a long time, and are still present in at least some agricultural areas, and a lot of early pesticides contained heavy metals, as do fertilizers. Even current pesticides contain some metals - copper, iron, sulfur, common in 'organic' and 'natural' pesticides. Mercury and arsenic not so common anymore, but residues stick around for a long long time.

Of course, if your garden soil is contaminated, and your produce made you sick, then the chicken eggs and meat will likely be contaminated too.

My next reaction was, this is not the right place to be getting medical advice ... especially not compared to the Mayo clinic!

All we can do is suggest possible sources of environmental contamination. Like pesticide residues. And all that machinery and barrels of stuff in the gorge. And new drywall and plywood - likely imported from China. I love China, the culture, language, people, food, art, but 'nuff said when it comes to possible sources of environmental contamination. Exterior paints can contain mercury as a mildew preventer.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 11:54AM
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Hopefully with all of those tests a chest xray was done. A gardening friend had problems similar to what you are posting. He too had many blood tests but the xray showed a cloudy area. Ended up he had a fungus infection in his lungs that had reactivated. He never told me what it was other than it was not one of the common fungus's. He apparently had it in his system for over 20 years as a low grade problem.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 9:48PM
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Fungal infection?? Blastomycosis, histoplasmosis??

can be difficult to diagnose, you would be getting worse unless you were treated for it. I would guess they checked for it seeing how it is soil born and more common in the early fall.
Lymph node biopsy?? Tracheal wash?? Titers are not reliable, PCR tests still??

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 10:21PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

I am really wondering what became of our sick friend.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 11:54AM
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Many of our medical people have not yet accepted that exposure to many of the poisons sprayed on land that is "conventionally" farmed can cause chronic health problems even though they recognize they can cause acute health problems. Exposure to more then one could cause a symbiotic relationship that is not healthy. That some people are more susceptible to adverse reactions to these poisons is also a known and if that person is exposed to more than one of these potential allergins can cause even larger problems.
Unfortunately the only way to find put if a person is suscetible to any substance is to expose them to that substance. While an allergist can, and will, test someone for these types of allergies it will only be done if there is good reason to suspect there is a need.
So alaria121 if you are still able to please update us on what, if anything has been found.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 6:42AM
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Check out Don Huber for the reality of what glyphosate has done to the heartland, the livestock and the people.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 7:48AM
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to eliminate worry about the well water for drinking, install a reverse osmosis filter

to eliminate worry about the soil, build raised beds with fresh soil added to the top, and innoculate the soil with beneficial microbes (mycorhizza, bacteria, compost, etc). The microbes will help your plants grow, and may help break down herbicide and pesticide residues persistent in the old soil below

to prevent worries about toxins in commercial fertilizer, grow organically- grow cover crops like peas in spring, buckwheat in summer, and rye/vetch in winter- to feed the soil, and use organic fertilizer if your soil needs it

might not cure your ills, but will cure the ills of your soil!

best of luck with the medical diagnosis

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 2:12PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

maimi fat transfer? Ugh. Moving fat around to change your appearance. This shameless ad for a stoopid service is not even remotely related to the thread.

But, I have been wondering what ever became of the OP.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 4:10PM
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alaria121, Please keep us updated on anything you may find out.
I have come down from 165 lbs. to 130 lbs. in the last 2 years. On top of that I also have Chronic actinic dermatitis, which also started about the same time. The doctors are baffled and several have given up.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 5:58AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

My thinking was in line with the very first response. Thyroid problems can be tricky as tests that don't cover all the aspect of thyroid function can overlook thyroid problems.

Then again, such a sudden and dramatic health situation could involve several things...and one thing being the straw that broke the camel's back.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 11:53AM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

This is the first time to see this. I am glad that I can't grow much produce anyway considering my climate, but the first step would be to stop eating things from the garden forever. Not to try and cure the garden, just it case, it's not worth dying to grow your own vegetables.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 12:55PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Except that there is little to no hard evidence that it's related to the garden at all. The evidence is circumstantial, and it could be any number of health conditions or a combination of several. Assuming the wrong thing could leave the real condition untreated.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 11:21AM
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