Mast Cell Disease & Pesticides: An MCAS Epidemic In The Floral Industry?

Is MCAS a hidden epidemic among certain clusters of people? Could pesticide exposure be driving MCAS and cancer rates, especially among those in the floral and gardening industries?

One of my readers brought this subject to my attention and sent in their personal story for me to share here. (I’ve added my own highlights and commentary at the bottom. I’ve also left the name off for anonymity):

I started in the floral/greenhouse industry in 1981 when I attended college and took a course in Horticulture. This was a 10 month course with the majority of the studies being done in a greenhouse setting.

In 1982 I started work full time in the flower shop and continued to work full time in the floral industry until 2003. Some of this work was done in a flower shop that was centered inside a garden center.

I was exposed to all forms of organophosphates during these 21 years.

In 2001, while at work, I had an unexpected and frightening episode of extreme high heart rate, heart palpations, sweating, weakness and extreme nausea. This episode occurred after reaching into a bucket of floral preservative. After seeing a doctor it was diagnosed as a “panic attack” From that day on I was having 3-8 “panic attacks” per day, mostly occurring during working hours. This went on until I left the industry in 2003. After this first episode I also noticed that I had become very sensitive to most medications, some food, smells of gas and diesel, household cleaners ect. I also immediately developed an allergy to latex balloons. Coming into contact with these everyday items would cause the symptoms of “panic attack” immediately.

I have never felt that the symptoms that I was having was “panic disorder” as it was labeled, but rather a secondary reaction to something else. It was never really investigated as my family physician, the doctors I had seen in clinics and the doctors I saw during numerous trips to emergency were convinced it was simply panic.

I left the floral industry in 2003 due to health concerns. I was extremely fatigued, my hair had started to fall out and I was dealing with chronic kidney infections and low kidney function. At that time a hair sample was taken from me and analyzed. This sample came back showing moderate to high levels mercury and heavy metals. After leaving the industry my health improved moderately and I was functioning much better, although the sensitivities never got better.

Approximately 5-6 years ago, I started having health issues again. Chronic fatigue, constant nausea, headaches and rashes. These symptoms as well as others I am dealing with have gotten worse over the years and I find myself dealing with most of the symptoms as listed on the chronic pesticide exposure list. There is no relief on any day from the symptoms I am having. I am finding it difficult to function through any given day as the symptoms can be debilitating. I still have reactions to most chemicals, medications, foods, cleaners ect.

I have done copious amounts of research on the floral industry and organophosphates. I have spoken with and read many stories about other floral industry workers that are dealing with all the same issues and I personally know florists that are dealing with the same issues. In the past 2 years, 3 of the florists I worked with in the 80’s have passed away from lymphoma.

This to me, does not seem coincidental but rather an issue that needs to be explored further.

I am convinced that my symptoms are a direct result of the cumulative effects of chronic organophosphate exposure.

I did a bit of Googling and found, unsurprisingly, that there is research which backs up this anecdotal evidence my reader provided:

Among the potential mechanisms of cancerogenesis induced by pesticide exposure, it has been reported that pesticides can alter the immune system, leading to chronic inflammation and the increased production of inflammatory chemokines and cytokines.

In support of this suggestion, a cross-sectional study investigated the levels of IL-17 and IL-22 in a cohort of greenhouse workers occupationally exposed to several pesticides (neonicotinoids, pyrethroids and ogranophosphates). The result revealed a significant increase in IL-22 values, while IL-17 did not show significant alterations. These findings suggest a possible role of immune deregulation in pesticide-induced pathologies and cancer development.

We may never know the cause of our mast cell disease but it is interesting to see that there are connections being made out there between things like pesticide exposure and immune system dysfunction. In the future I’ll be exploring this topic further so make sure to subscribe now so you don’t miss out.

I really appreciate my readers sharing their own stories and I encourage you to do the same by clicking on the About link in the menu. Scroll down to Contact and use the form provided. And as always, won’t you please take a moment to share using the share buttons below?

Remember, we’re in this mast cell craziness together!

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