Arsenic: Drinking mildly tainted water triggers numbness and burning of the hands and feet, “chronic fatigue syndrome,” shortness of breath. Higher concentrations trigger abdominal pain, anemia, heart disease, stroke, and lung and bladder cancers. For milder cases, switching to distilled water usually leads to marked improvement. Harbut says, symptoms or not, anyone who drinks well water should take a simple urine test.
Indoor air pollution: “Sick buildings” can trigger shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, chronic fatigue; extreme cases cause gasping, chest tightness, itching, rashes, memory loss, hyperactivity, disturbed sleep.
Asbestos: Roughly 15 to 20 years after first exposure, shortness of breath after very mild exercise, inexplicable pain in side of chest, and, in more serious cases, clubbing of fingertips, extremely difficult breathing, cancer of any organ. Jim Dulzo is a veteran Detroit-area jazz broadcaster, critic and concert producer. E-mail [email protected]