Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Letter from Dr Peter Julu, Specialist Autonomic Neurophysiologist and Consultant Physician


  I have carried out target-organ specific examination of the autonomic nervous system in a group of aircrews (n = 9) who developed chronic neurological symptoms during the course of their duties and compared the outcomes with a group of coal miners (n = 6) who also became ill following exposure to carbon monoxide due to ventilation accidents, in order to establish the pattern of autonomic dysfunctions in the two groups. The neurological sequelae I found in miners exposed to carbon monoxide and aircrews complaining of ill health consist of a patchy pattern of dysfunctions of the autonomic target organs in various parts of body but mainly in the skin, in the large blood vessels including the heart and in the brain. These neurological sequelae can explain the symptoms and ill health in these two groups of patients. Cholinergic functions are selectively preserved while monoaminergic functions deteriorate in the brain and in the skin among the aircrews. The imbalance between cholinergic and monoaminergic functions in the brain can explain cognitive dysfunction and impairment of short-term memory. The pattern of autonomic dysfunctions in the aircrews is distinctively different from that in miners exposed to carbon monoxide.

  I am continuing to see more aircrews in my clinics and the pattern of autonomic dysfunctions in these patients is consistent. This is a compelling reason for further investigation, first to confirm the findings in the aircrews by examining a larger number and then to investigate possible common toxic agents among sheep farmers and aircrews. This is so because the pattern of autonomic dysfunctions in sheep farmers and the aircrews is identical.

17 June 2007

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