Pubdate: Mon, 19 Jul 2004
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 The Province
Contact:  http://www.canada.com/vancouver/theprovince/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/476
Author: Ethan Baron

POLICE SAY ILLNESS TIED TO POT RAID

A Vancouver policewoman is suffering from a mysterious illness police
say is linked to a raid on a marijuana growing operation, but medical
experts are at odds over the cause.

The three-year constable has struggled for nearly four months with
serious symptoms that appeared the day after she helped take down the
grow-op.

A doctor diagnosed organophosphate pesticide poisoning, received
through a finger wound.

"She suffered a small cut," said Const. Sarah Bloor. "It didn't hurt
her at the time. When she was taking a shower later she felt a little
bit of a sting.

"It appears the hot water of the shower pushed or moved the chemicals
through her system."

The next day, the officer thought she'd caught the flu, but within two
weeks her joints began to swell and her muscles began to twitch. Soon
she could sleep for only 15-minute periods. "For the longest time she
wasn't diagnosed," Bloor said. "It was thought that maybe it was
[multiple sclerosis]. That was very stressful."

But Poison Control Centre spokeswoman Gillian Willis said that
whatever sickened the 39-year-old, it wasn't organophosphate
pesticide. "Incorrect diagnosis. I don't know where they came up with
that," she said.

"With organophosphate poisoning, the symptoms are short-lived. Joint
swelling is not something that you'd expect. There might be other
chemicals that she was exposed to there that would be responsible for
her illness."

During the March 19 raid in the 1900-block of Triumph Street, which
netted 2,000 pot plants, the policewoman cut herself through her glove
on a piece of metal, Bloor said.

The constable's chemical exposure would likely have come through
inhalation, Willis said, adding: "Getting a little bit of something in
a cut would not cause those symptoms."

The debate over a mysterious illness follows the controversy of a city
bus driver and three passengers who were sent to hospital May 25.

Police found trace amounts of toxic methyl chloride on the bus, and
said it was from a possible terrorist attack. Vancouver's chief
medical officer Dr. John Blatherwick said the victims were suffering
from mass hysteria.
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