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What’s the State of YOUR Air?

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Mold and mycotoxins: effects on the neurological and immune systems in humans.

Campbell AW1, Thrasher JD, Gray MR, Vojdani A.

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Medical Center for Immune and Toxic Disorders, Spring, Texas, USA.

Publisher Summary

There can be a complexity of health problems associated with multiple mold exposure. This chapter describes the most recent neuroimmune mechanisms of diseases caused by molds and mycotoxins in humans. The exact biological and chemical actions through which these mechanisms unfold are not completely understood. However, molds do produce metabolites such as mycotoxins and shed antigenic materials—namely, spores, hyphae, extracellular polysaccharides, and enzymes—that are toxic and/or cause immunologic responses. The chapter discusses detailed health and environmental history, environmental monitoring data, physical examinations, routine clinical chemistries, measurements of lymphocyte phenotypic markers, antibodies to molds, mycotoxins, neuronal antigen antibodies, leukocyte apoptosis, nerve conduction studies (NCS), brainstem auditory evoked potentials (BAER), visual evoked responses (VER), and other neurological testing. The illness of these individuals is referred to as a “mold mycotoxicosis,” and it involves the immune system, the lungs, the central and peripheral nervous systems, and generalized inflammatory and irritant responses to exposure to spores, hyphal fragments, mycotoxins, solvents, and other byproducts.

PMID: 15350803 DOI: 10.1016/S0065-2164(04)55015-3

[Indexed for MEDLINE]


Low-level hydrogen sulfide and central nervous system dysfunction.

Kilburn KH1, Thrasher JD, Gray MR.

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Forty-nine adults living in Lovington, Tatum, and Artesia, the sour gas/oil sector of Southeastern New Mexico, were tested for neurobehavioral impairment. Contributing hydrogen sulfide were (1) an anaerobic sewage plant; (2) two oil refineries; (3) natural gas/oil wells and (4) a cheese-manufacturing plant and its waste lagoons. Comparisons were to unexposed Wickenburg, Arizona, adults. Neurobehavioral functions were measured in 26 Lovington adults including 23 people from Tatum and Artesia, New Mexico, and 42 unexposed Arizona people. Participants completed questionnaires including chemical exposures, symptom frequencies and the Profile of Mood States. Measurements included balance, reaction time, color discrimination, blink reflex, visual fields, grip strength, hearing, vibration, problem solving, verbal recall, long-term memory, peg placement, trail making and fingertip number writing errors (FTNWE). Average numbers of abnormalities and test scores were adjusted for age, gender, educational level, height and weight, expressed as percent predicted (% pred) and compared by analysis of variance (ANOVA). Ages and educational attainment of the three groups were not statistically significantly different (ssd). Mean values of Lovington residents were ssd from the unexposed Arizona people for simple and choice reaction times, balance with eyes open and closed, visual field score, hearing and grip strength. Culture Fair, digit symbol substitution, vocabulary, verbal recall, peg placement, trail making A and B, FTNWE, information, picture completion and similarities were also ssd. The Lovington adults who averaged 11.8 abnormalities were ssd from, Tatum-Artesia adults who had 3.6 and from unexposed subjects with 2.0. Multiple source community hydrogen sulfide exposures impaired neurobehavioral functions.

PMID: 20504829 DOI: 10.1177/0748233710369126

[Indexed for MEDLINE]


A water-damaged home and health of occupants: a case study.

Thrasher JD1, Gray MR, Kilburn KH, Dennis DP, Yu A.

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A family of five and pet dog who rented a water-damaged home and developed multiple health problems. The home was analyzed for species of mold and bacteria. The diagnostics included MRI for chronic sinusitis with ENT and sinus surgery, and neurological testing for neurocognitive deficits. Bulk samples from the home, tissue from the sinuses, urine, nasal secretions, placenta, umbilical cord, and breast milk were tested for the presence of trichothecenes, aflatoxins, and Ochratoxin A. The family had the following diagnosed conditions: chronic sinusitis, neurological deficits, coughing with wheeze, nose bleeds, and fatigue among other symptoms. An infant was born with a total body flare, developed multiple Cafe-au-Lait pigmented skin spots and diagnoses with NF1 at age 2. The mycotoxins were detected in bulk samples, urine and nasal secretions, breast milk, placenta, and umbilical cord. Pseudomonas aueroginosa, Acinetobacter, Penicillium, and Aspergillus fumigatus were cultured from nasal secretions (father and daughter). RT-PCR revealed A. fumigatus DNA in sinus tissues of the daughter. The dog had 72 skin lesions (sebaceous glands and lipomas) from which trichothecenes and ochratoxin A. were detected. The health of the family is discussed in relation to the most recent published literature regarding microbial contamination and toxic by-products present in water-damaged buildings.

PMID: 22220187 PMCID: PMC3246741 DOI: 10.1155/2012/312836

J Environ Public Health. 2012;2012:312836. doi: 10.1155/2012/312836. Epub 2011 Dec 15.


February 27, 2020


Janette Sherman, physician-activist who warned of toxic chemicals, dies at 89

An undated photo of Janette D. Sherman. (Family photo)

An undated photo of Janette D. Sherman. (Family photo)


Harrison Smith

November 14, 2019 at 8:17 p.m. EST

Janette D. Sherman, a physician, toxicologist, author and activist who served as an expert witness or consultant in 5,000 workers’ compensation cases, calling attention to the health hazards of contaminated water, toxic pesticides and deadly chemicals in factories, died Nov. 7 at an assisted-living center in Alexandria, Va. She was 89.

Her daughter Connie Bigelow said she had dementia and Addison’s disease, an adrenal disorder.

Dr. Sherman was an authority on breast cancer, birth defects, waste dumps and nuclear radiation, specializing in illnesses that stemmed from toxic agents found in the home, at the office or on the battlefield. In recent years she had worked with scientists from the former Soviet Union to highlight the enduring health and environmental effects of the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl.

“She was indefatigable,” consumer advocate Ralph Nader said in a phone interview. “Doctors like her have to be very strong characters, because they’re swimming upstream against corporations, politicians and company scientists.”

Dr. Sherman sought to educate the public on the health hazards Dr. Sherman sought to educate the public on the health hazards of radiation and toxic chemicals. (Family photo)

While plaintiffs in workers’ compensation cases often struggle to locate physicians, he added, Dr. Sherman was seemingly always available ­ sometimes flying in from the Hawaiian island of Maui, where she lived for several years before settling in Alexandria in the early 1980s.

Dr. Sherman was an oncology professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and, after the 1976 passage of the Toxic Substances Control Act, served on an advisory committee for the Environmental Protection Agency. She also consulted for the EPA on pesticides and for the National Cancer Institute on breast cancer, and wrote two books: “Chemical Exposure and Disease” (1988) and “Life’s Delicate Balance” (2000), on breast cancer.

The daughter of pharmacists, she was one of only six women in her graduating class at medical school. She began focusing on toxicology in the early 1970s while working in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Mich.

Many of her patients shared the same ailments, in addition to holding the same positions in the auto industry. “She figured out that part of what was happening to them was a result of what they were being exposed to in their jobs,” her daughter said.

Dr. Sherman partnered with Nader’s Health Research Group to release a 1973 study of 498 Detroit autoworkers, finding that “their high rate of heart and lung diseases is at least partly due to dirt, dust, smoke, fumes, chemicals and other occupational hazards,” according to a report by the Washington Star-News. Cigarettes had previously been blamed for the diseases.

She also served as an expert witness in a lawsuit brought by the widows of three Ford Motor Co. mechanics who, before dying of cancer, were exposed to arsenic and other chemicals at a plant in Sterling Heights, Mich. It was difficult to prove that arsenic ­ a known carcinogen ­ had caused each man’s death, she noted, adding that it was nonetheless essential that products with arsenic be labeled and that people exposed to the chemical be carefully monitored.

To do otherwise, she told the New York Times, is “to condemn workers to irreversible illness and early death.”

In the late 1970s, Dr. Sherman was enlisted to examine pollution in the Love Canal community of Niagara Falls, N.Y., where contaminants from a chemical dump had seeped into homes, leading President Jimmy Carter to declare environmental emergencies in 1978 and 1980. Families were forced to leave the neighborhood.

“Dr. Sherman wrote a letter to the EPA, saying that the residents of Love Canal should be evacuated, that she was distressed by the way the construction was carried out and by the poor safety precautions that exposed the residents to contaminated air,” local activist Lois Marie Gibbs later wrote. “We released her letter to the press. It created a little more pressure on Albany and a little more of a stir in Washington.”

Some of Dr. Sherman’s more recent work drew skepticism, if not outright hostility, from scientists who questioned her methods and conclusions, including in “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment” (2009), published by the New York Academy of Sciences.

The book was written by a team of former Soviet scientists led by Alexey V. Yablokov, with Dr. Sherman as contributing editor. Drawing on Slavic-language research and reporting, they concluded that as of 2004, some 985,000 people had died as a result of the Chernobyl accident ­ a figure that dwarfed previous estimates, which ranged from fewer than 50 direct deaths to some 50,000 long-term.

“Was it controversial? Very much so,” said Dr. Sherman’s friend and collaborator Joseph Mangano, executive director of the nonprofit Radiation and Public Health Project. “But it remains the most in-depth study of Chernobyl health hazards ever.”

Dr. Sherman’s work with Mangano included a 2010 study of radiation levels in baby teeth, in which they implied that small radiation doses ­ the result of fallout from nuclear bomb tests ­ caused “many thousands” of deaths worldwide. Other scientists urged caution in considering those findings, suggesting that there was correlation but not necessarily causation.

Janette Dexter Miller was born in Buffalo on July 10, 1930. Her parents divorced when she was young, and she moved with her mother some 40 miles east, to the town of Warsaw, N.Y.

She studied biology and chemistry at the Western Michigan College of Education (now Western Michigan University) in Kalamazoo, where she received a bachelor’s degree in 1952. She married John Bigelow that same year and moved to the San Francisco area, where he served in the Navy and she worked as a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley’s Radiation Laboratory, now Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

She later studied the effects of radiation at the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory at Hunters Point, a San Francisco shipyard, where one of her bosses suggested she attend medical school. She did so as a newly divorced single parent while raising two young children, graduating in 1964 from Wayne State.

Her second marriage, to Howard Sherman, also ended in divorce. In 1984 she married Donald Nevinger, an aerospace engineer who worked on the Bell X-2 experimental supersonic rocket plane. They had been high school sweethearts 40 years earlier and reconnected after their previous marriages ended in divorce.

“The interesting thing was that his voice was exactly the same,” Dr. Sherman later told The Washington Post. “He still had the same smile, the same sparkling eyes. Two visits later, he asked me to marry him.”

He died in 2005 of pulmonary fibrosis, apparently caused by asbestos from the brake linings he worked on in his father’s auto shop. Dr. Sherman helped him find experimental treatments before his lungs gave out. “I had the best 17 years of my life,” she told The Post after his death.

In addition to her daughter, of Seattle, Dr. Sherman had a second child from her first marriage, Charles Bigelow of Berryville, Va.; two stepchildren, Kevin Nevinger of San Diego and Donna Kellogg of Palm Desert, Calif.; and five grandchildren.

Dr. Sherman recommended avoiding X-rays when possible, getting rid of plastic food containers, eating organic produce and ­ if not quite for health reasons ­ picking up new skills, as when she began taking cello lessons at 56, after having never played an instrument. She also encouraged anyone who would listen to abstain from toxic pesticides and lawn chemicals, which she deemed unnecessary at best.

“To my knowledge,” she sometimes quipped, “nobody has ever died of weeds.”

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Michael R, Gray, MD, MPH, CIME

Internal Medicine, Toxicology