Upsize the arsenic?
Well, apparently, I’ve been getting side serves of antimony and arsenic, for who knows how long.
Three weeks ago I visited my doctor to get more drugs and have my blood pressure checked. While waiting, I got pins and needles in my hand and cheek. So, after Mary Jane checked my blood pressure, I mentioned this, not having discussed my random numbness and tingles with anyone since changing clinics, two years ago. Okay, I tell a lie. I gabbled at her while she was taking my blood pressure and she told me to shut up for a minute.
My blood pressure was fine. I forgot to take my cheap Chinese hearing aid and missed much of what she said when we discussed the tingles and time frames. Next minute, I was asked to have a test for heavy metals before I left. I did, guessing it was a routine test because the local rag had been reporting concerns about pollution from the gold-antimony mine about 10 km away. Nearly every person I saw coming out of consultation rooms carried the little clear container with the yellow screw top. I had no trouble filling mine.
The day before yesterday, Tuesday, I went back for the results, and a PAP smear. Well, knock me over with a feather, I had massive amounts of arsenic, along with antimony in my urine. The PAP smear had to wait. Lucky I had the aforesaid aid with me this time, and I could hear clearly (along with other annoying noises like my hair scraping my shoulder and my breathing). My urine arsenic level was 606.7 when normal is less than 90 of whatever those abbreviations mean. In itself, this isn’t really much to panic over, especially since I’m not dead. I eat lots of seafood, and three weeks ago is now too far back to me to remember if I’d been eating oven-ready battered fish on the previous two or three days. I love fish. Apparently, most arsenic is eliminated from the body within three days, leaving some to lodge in the brain and other important bits.
I had a blood test before I left on Tuesday and picked up the kit for a 24 hour urine sample. In a way, I was quite pleased to know that my ‘foggy spells’ were due to the heavy metals in my system. Mary Jane suggested my sudden exercise might be encouraging my body to offload stored toxins, so I’ve treadmilled both mornings since, even doing 10 laps yesterday.
That afternoon, on our way to my mammogram appointment , I asked Mr R if he has been slipping me arsenic. “We haven’t got any, have we?” was his response, and then he went on to say how could he get hold of the stuff, when I had the wallet, the car and we went everywhere together. Good point, Mr R. He was just being nice when he finished making my coffee for me after I had forgotten to come back after the kettle boiled. And, anyway, I don’t have life insurance.
So it’s environmental then. Poisoned rat skeleton dust in the ceiling drifting down through the cracks? I’m trying to remember if the day before the doctors visit was the day I cleaned up the green mouse shit from under the microwave? I had gloves on. Did that mouse shit create arsenic dust to be sucked into the microwave? All sorts of things running through my mind. I hadn’t recently ate shellfish, but any seafood can show arsenic. Perhaps some of the old fence palings I’ve been burning are treated timber, but I don’t think so. I get a face full of smoke every time I put wood in the heater. And maybe I should find out exactly what is in the dust that I chuck around while cleaning at the trailer manufacturing place!
I’m supposed to be doing that 24 hour urine thing but I’ve put it off. Firstly on Tuesday I was too busy having gone to Bendigo to have my overdue mammogram. The 4th reminder letter from Breastscreen turned up on Monday and I went online to make an appointment right away. It’s amazing what you will do if it is online! That option didn’t present itself on the other letters. There was one appointment free the next day but then none suitable to me until August, so I jumped at it. PAP smear in the morning, mammogram in the afternoon was my intention. Get it out-of-the-way for another two years.
Sorry, I’m wandering off. I decided not to collect the urine yesterday because I was going out to work twice. Pegmarked it for today. I have to delay it now, because I only got around to reading the instructions this morning and discovered I wasn’t to eat seafood for two days prior. [Slapped hand to forehead] Guess what I had for
tea dinner last night. That will bring me to Saturday but I need to deliver the big plastic container to pathology next day, so that’s out. Sunday is now the designated day.
The antimony? I hear you ask. This test had to go to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney to be done. The results sheet says there is no charge by the courier or collection agency, so I’m presuming the Health Department is picking up the costs. Not that I have to pay anything anyway, being on a Low Income Health Care Card. I had to fill out a permission form to send my medical file to the Health Department.
The antimony level in my urine was 23.9 and the recommended level is <+-1.0. Make of that equation what you will! I think it was a mistake, because the Doc rewrote it as <=1.0 while underlining the 23.9*H nmol/mmol cr. Yeah, means a lot to me, too.
My doctor used to live in the area and she has almost rid herself of high antimony by flushing her system. So now I have to take two coloxyl twice a day with instructions to back off it a bit if “you start getting shit everywhere”. I don’t know why she apologised for saying shit. Anyhow, for a start, she wants me to ‘go’ at least twice a day. Maybe she thinks I don’t know what defaecate means.
I think I might be supposed to do something else with a blender and fruit, but I sort of missed that bit.
Breathing in antimony in the air over a long period can cause problems with the lungs (pneumoconiosis); heart problems (high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat); stomach pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and possible reproductive problems. It’s not known for causing cancer, fancy that.
Did you know that brake pads have antimony in them? I didn’t. We live on a cross roads so cars brake here a lot. The speed restriction zone begins here too. The two tankers carrying groundwater from the mine constantly turn in and out from our house. Do they have brake pads on their air brakes. I know nothing about that sort of thing. Hmm, getting the mind wondering doesn’t it? All those cars and trucks chucking out more than exhaust gases every time they brake.
[big sigh] I mustn’t do my head in over this. It was just a shock. I hardly dare eat or drink anything, eyeing everything with suspicion. I started drinking my morning coffee out of a new cup not long back. Has it got arsenic leaching into my drink? shit like that! I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a sudden bout of cleaning of my dusty surroundings at the weekend.
Yeah, I’ve probably over-reacted. I’ll just go back to wearing my face mask at work, keep out of the dust. I’ll keep you informed and if you have read this far, you deserve a medal.
ADDED LATER: On June 2nd, A Current Affair ran an article called the Costerfield Crisis – Health Scare. An investigation was launched earlier by the Health Department and found no one is in immediate danger.
The thing is, the highest level of antimony reported in urine results of people who live there is 9.7, and mine was 23.9 and I live 8kms away. I believe I’ve inadvertently started to detox when I took up eating a few slices of raw onion daily, not long before the urine test – to ease nasal congestion – and the large antimony and arsenic amounts I’m showing are the metals being flushed out after accumulating in my body for who knows how long, or from where! Some say the detox value of onion is nil, other sources say it grabs arsenic and other toxins, helps the liver to flush them out.
ADDED EVEN LATER (May 2015): Ages ago now, the Health Department reported that the lids on the specimen collection bottles were giving false high readings. 😮