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Porphyria Educational Services


Porphyrica Educational Services Bulletin
Vol. 2 No. 43 October 29, 2000
FOCUS: Porphyringenic chemicals and pharmaceuticals

Nearly 3,800 various chemicals in use today have been researched and found to be porphyringenic. This is a serious problem for many porphyria patients. Many porphyria patients, have found themselves with a high degree of sensitivity to a large variety of chemical toxins.

Such chemicals which are porphyringenic interefere with the human body's ability to send oxygen to it's various parts. Such oxygen is sent around the body through the hemoglobin which made up of heme.

The heme in the liver is most necessary for producing the needed cytochrome P-450.
Dr. David Flockard of Georgetown University is one of the foremost researchers of pharmaceuticals which are cytochrome P-450.

The Cyctochrome P-450 function in the body is most vital in the detoxification of pharmaceuticals and other chemicals. When porphhyria patients are exposed to drugs and chemicals which are considered unsafe, that adversely effects the cyctochrome P-450 production. These chemicals and drugs are known as being porphyrinogenic.

It must be noted that there are a large number of porphyrinogenic chemicals and drugs that people are exposed to daily. Foremost are the sulpher containing components.
Included are all of the sulfonamides and the sulfonylureas.

Another one is that of vinyl derivatrives which are found in many of today's household and office products. Other harder to detect substances include cyanine dyes, aldehydes, benzene derivatives, acetylenes, aluminum, heavy metals, and a host of others.

Some of the chemicals not only produce a porphyrogenic result, but go on to produce a porphyrin enzyme triggering defect. When such a defect has been triggered in a porphyria patient, whether they have inherited or acquired porphyria, such a defect can not be reversed. With such a defect established any exposure, even a slight amount to any of the unsafe chemicals or pharmaceuticals can go on to exacerbate into an full blown porphyria attack.

Other chemical toxins while in themselves will not cause an enzyme defect, will however tend to exacerbate porphyria symptoms if a porphyrin enzyme defect is in place.

For those who frequent the highways and are caught in rush hour traffic, especially during the winter months when exhaust fumes tend to hang low over the roadways,
remember to close vents on your windows and have all windows closed. Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide in normally healthy people can cause nausea and headaches, but for those with porphyria enzyme defects the toll can be far greater.

JoEllen Sommerfield PhD
Professor of Biochemistry