Chemical injuries and poisonings and the resultant hypersensitivities are not limited to North America.
In Germany, the exposure pattern differs. According to a spokesperson for a national patient support group Interessengemeinschaft Der Holzschutzmittel - Geschadigten e.v. (IGH), most hypersensitive individuals in Germany were exposed to wood preservatives manufactured by Desowag. The two most popular products: xylamon, a clear finish, and xybdecor, a similar product with a stain, contained the pesticides pentachlorophenol (PCP) and lindane. Wooden windows were frequently dipped in the wood preservative followed by several coats of stain. These products were used in commercial applications and do-it-yourself kits available for home use.
Throughout the 1980s, more and more families with new and previously treated windows, and children in schools where these products were being used, were becoming chronically ill and disabled. Severe central nervous system symptoms and respiratory problems were the most prevalent health complaints. Patients also reportedly exhibited aggressive, anti-social behavior. There was also an increased incidence of aplastic anemia, leukemia, and liver damage.
Since German reunification, a similar cluster of hypersensitivity has been observed in residents of East Germany from wood preservatives contaminated with DDT and lindane.
A lawsuit against Desowag brought visibility
to chemical sensitivities and the toxic products. Two managers at
the company were sentenced in May 1993. More legal action is expected.
The visibility brought another 1500 calls and 500 letters to IGH.
More than 10,000 people had reported health problems to the patient group
during the previous decade.