I have a life long history of allergies and two years I was diagnosed with asthma. I work with the government inspecting poultry plants. Last Thanksgiving I lost my sense of taste and smell. Actually everything tasted or smelled like rotten citrus. After several months it changed to a burning wood smell. A ENT told me to use a saline nasal wash as many as four times a day or more. I visited a plant two days ago and after one day I noticed after the first day that the citrus smell and taste was back. Two workers in the plant have the exact same symptoms. I was only able to talk to one of the ladies who told me that she had gotten some better but still had the same symptoms. She told me that she had also developed the condition around Thanksgiving of last year. We both were in agreement that we could distinguish tastes such as sweet, sour and salty. But could not distinguish various foods by taste. I am wondering if this could possibly be from a chemical that is being used in this plant, possibly a cleaning solution. The only areas that we have in common other than hallways is the same set of bathrooms. I plan on reporting this through official channels Tuesday. I am wondering though what type doctor do I need to see and if this condition is reversable? Thank you in advance for any advice you can give me.
You are right to suspect a chemical/toxin cause for your symptoms. A large number of substances and disease processes may impact the sense of taste and smell. Most strange odors, while unusual, are usually not relatable to a specific cause. The occurrence of these symptoms in 2 other workers strongly suggests a common cause originating in the plant. A determination of what this substance might be would best be made by a certified industrial hygienist.
You should first discuss this with management and with any person within the plant, whose job is to investigate possible environmental hazards. Either you or they may also wish to seek assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You can get information about this at their website http://www.epa.gov/epahome/comments2.htm.
Reversibility of your symptoms is unpredictable; often dependent on the cause along with the intensity and duration of exposure. If it is feasible for you to travel to Denver, Colorado, Bruce Jafek, MD is an expert in the field of taste and smell at the University of Colorado Medical Center.
For the moment, you may simply want to avoid using the 'same set of bathrooms.'
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