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IJDALLINGER

Long term effects of gassing

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IJDALLINGER   
IJDALLINGER

My Great Grandfather, having served in the RGA from 1916-1918 died just six years after the war. He was aged 46 at the time and his death certificate reads 1) Bronchial pneumonia 2) Cardiac failure.

Has anyone ever carried out research having found similar circumstances? It might of course be unrelated but as his service record is missing it's difficult to find out if he suffered any form of gas damage or other injury. Are there any other records such as medical ones that might throw any light on this? All help gratefully received.

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SebStJohn   
SebStJohn

My Grandfather also served with the RGA and was the victim of mustard gas in March 1918.

My mother recalls his poor health for the remainder of his life and is still scarred by his mood swings that she attributes to his poor health.

I will need to dig out his death certificate but I'm certain it lists the same as your GGFs. He was young during the war and lived much longer post war - however he only just made 60.

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Stoppage Drill   
Stoppage Drill

Post-war, I think that many respiratory/pulmonary disease victims blamed their condition on Great War service, gassed or not. I clearly remember many incidents where I was told to be polite and sympathetic, as a man's coughing and wheezing was due to him "being gassed," or "spending three days wounded in a shellhole at Passchendaele."

 

The prevalence of tobacco smoking and domestic/industrial air pollution must have had much more to do with it.

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petestarling   
petestarling

It was quite normal for victims of gas poisoning to suffer long term effects such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Many suffered an early death such as my own grandfather.

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johnboy   
johnboy
11 minutes ago, petestarling said:

It was quite normal for victims of gas poisoning to suffer long term effects such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Many suffered an early death such as my own grandfather.

Can you reference where you found this

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micks   
micks

in the 1970's a family member worked as a nurse in repatriation hospitals. Under her care were a number of men who had been subjected to gassing in WW1. These men had lived into old age but had spent the lives dealing with effects of the gassing.

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Longton1971   
Longton1971

What about TB?  Was that a likely consequence of being gassed?  There is a VC winner who lived in north Staffs, Ernest Egerton, who attributed his illness to being gassed on 23 March 1918?

Richard

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ss002d6252   
ss002d6252
49 minutes ago, Longton1971 said:

What about TB?  Was that a likely consequence of being gassed?  There is a VC winner who lived in north Staffs, Ernest Egerton, who attributed his illness to being gassed on 23 March 1918?

Richard

I suppose it's possible that lung damage from gassing could make you more susceptible to the effects of the extra damage caused by TB but in itself it wouldn't cause TB.

Craig

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Longton1971   
Longton1971

His doctors may not have accepted his diagnosis at the time as they specifically refer to the claim as coming from the "patient's statement". 

Richard

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petestarling   
petestarling

I am afraid I do not have the reference to my earlier post to hand as I have lent all my files on the medical aspects of gas poisoning to someone undertaking their MA.

 

Pete

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PhilB   
PhilB
On ‎30‎/‎08‎/‎2017 at 08:00, Stoppage Drill said:

Post-war, I think that many respiratory/pulmonary disease victims blamed their condition on Great War service, gassed or not. I clearly remember many incidents where I was told to be polite and sympathetic, as a man's coughing and wheezing was due to him "being gassed," or "spending three days wounded in a shellhole at Passchendaele."

 

The prevalence of tobacco smoking and domestic/industrial air pollution must have had much more to do with it.

People those days lived in a permanent haze of fag smoke. It was everywhere - on the buses, in the trains, in the cinema, in most homes. If you didn`t smoke, you got your share through secondary inhalation! Most kids stunk of tobacco as their clothes were impregnated. Many jobs were carried out in dirty or damaging atmospheres and to add to the mix, doctors recommended smoking to loosen catarrh build up in the lungs! That`s not to say, of course, that many men didn`t have damaged lungs through gas inhalation and many suffered a great deal for years.

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healdav   
healdav
On 30/08/2017 at 11:16, petestarling said:

It was quite normal for victims of gas poisoning to suffer long term effects such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Many suffered an early death such as my own grandfather.

When I first went to work in 1965, a woman in my office, albeit at retirement age, was frequently absent to look after her invalid husband who had been gassed, and never really recovered.

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MBrockway   
MBrockway

One of my grandfather's three "Blighty Ones" was a gassing.

 

He lived well into his nineties but his psychological reaction to certain smells was almost hysterical and meant that my gran and aunts were unable to put on nail varnish in the house.  Seeing this as a young boy made me completely understand Owen's "ecstasy of fumbling" when I read the poem.

 

I've done a few body recoveries in my time in mountain rescue and I can vouch for smell being the single sense that instantly brings back these experiences.

 

Mark

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stephen p nunn   
stephen p nunn

Hi Ivor - hope all is OK with you. Here is an extract from my book about a Maldon man who died from the effects:

 

(39) FITCH, LEONARD BELCHAM

Private (1152) Essex Yeomanry

Born 1896. Youngest son of the late Edward Arthur Fitch (1854-1912) [farmer and former Mayor of Maldon] and Fanny Fitch (d.1917) of Brickhouse Farm,  Fambridge Road, Maldon. [M] [T62]

Died 8/7/1918 (aged 22)

Maldon (St. Mary) Churchyard [V]

First served in France 29/4/1915 and was at the Battle of Ypres. Gassed, discharged and died of pneumonia at Maldon. He is included on the Essex Yeomanry memorial in Chelmsford Cathedral

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Dai Bach y Sowldiwr   
Dai Bach y Sowldiwr
On 30/08/2017 at 10:35, Longton1971 said:

What about TB?  Was that a likely consequence of being gassed?  There is a VC winner who lived in north Staffs, Ernest Egerton, who attributed his illness to being gassed on 23 March 1918?

Richard

I've not come across any research that proves a positive link between gassing and pulmonary TB.

I'm not saying it's not there, but I haven't come across one.

Difficult thing to prove as you need to compare a baseline of uninfected gassed and ungassed soldiers and civilians  with infected and gassed soldiers and civilians.

As not many reliable statistics exist from those days about the prevalence in each group, its unlikely we'll ever find out.

And not the type of thing you could repeat in experiments very well nowadays. (Syria excepted).

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IJDALLINGER   
IJDALLINGER
42 minutes ago, stephen p nunn said:

Hi Ivor - hope all is OK with you. Here is an extract from my book about a Maldon man who died from the effects:

 

(39) FITCH, LEONARD BELCHAM

Private (1152) Essex Yeomanry

Born 1896. Youngest son of the late Edward Arthur Fitch (1854-1912) [farmer and former Mayor of Maldon] and Fanny Fitch (d.1917) of Brickhouse Farm,  Fambridge Road, Maldon. [M] [T62]

Died 8/7/1918 (aged 22)

Maldon (St. Mary) Churchyard [V]

First served in France 29/4/1915 and was at the Battle of Ypres. Gassed, discharged and died of pneumonia at Maldon. He is included on the Essex Yeomanry memorial in Chelmsford Cathedral

Thanks Stepehen. It just seems to me that he died soon after. It may be unrelated of course but finding out is proving difficult. Not sure where to go next. 

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Robert Dunlop   
Robert Dunlop

There were several chemical agents used in 'gas' attacks. Some had no effect on the lungs. The sternutatory agents, which were designed to induce sneezing and tearing (lacrimation), generally were not directly toxic to the lungs. Agents like phosgene, chlorine, and mustard gas could damage the lining of the wind-pipe and the delicate air sacs within the lungs. If exposure was very limited then the irritation to the lungs would not cause any permanent damage. High enough levels of exposure were lethal. The inflammatory reaction to damage would cause fluid to be released into the air sacs. This reaction caused the frothy liquid to appear at the mouth, a sign that is described in many accounts of men who died in the immediate aftermath of a major gas attack but not from asphyxia. The latter effect was due to the simple problem of a gas displacing the oxygen in the normal atmosphere, hence these men died of lack of oxygen as an indirect of the gas. In these circumstances, death would be so quick that the secondary effects of inflammation would not have had time to develop.

 

Clearly there were cases where men received a significant but sub-lethal dose of irritant gas. The acute inflammatory process would have occurred but not to the extent that the person died from this process. In an age before antibiotics, however, 'burns' to some of the lung tissue and to the lining of the wind-pipe increased the risk of developing infection, such as pneumonia and trachea-bronchitis. Both infections would occur several days later and could be the secondary cause of death.

 

The normal longer-term reaction to damaged tissue includes scarring. In the lungs, this is a process known as fibrosis. Scar tissue is thicker than normal lung tissue and is not elastic (i.e. lets the lungs expand and contract as you breathe). Fibrosis in an area of the lung will stop gas exchange, as well as make the lungs more stiff and only able to hold smaller volumes of air). The lungs can tolerate very significant amounts of fibrosis and damage before the person is aware of a problem, as is evidenced by the long time that cigarette smoke inhalation takes to cause symptoms of chronic lung damage. In some individuals, the inflammatory process can become uncontrolled. This is an idiosyncratic reaction, causing much more widespread damage more quickly than would normally be expected. Idiosyncratic reactions are very rare. The actual numbers of men who were exposed to sub-lethal doses of gas and who went on to develop permanent lung damage is not known. There was no screening programme at the time. The numbers were likely relatively low by comparison to all those men who were actually involved in frontline action. The far, far more likely cause of physical damage to the lungs was cigarette smoking.

 

There are rare conditions that spontaneously cause widespread lung fibrosis. Someone who was exposed to gas might develop such a condition, which was completely unrelated.

 

The causal agent in TB is the tuberculosis bacterium. The effects of gas on the lungs would not 'cause' TB. Pre-existing damage to the lungs might make it more likely that someone who is infected by TB would develop active infection in the lungs. TB was so common at the time, however, that it would have been difficult to prove this.

 

'Shell-shock' is the term that is commonly thought of in relation to a combination of physical and psychological effects of warfare. Today the term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is used to characterise some features of shell-shock. It was not uncommon then, as now, to tie some of these effects to physical symptoms. For some men, the experiences of the war would have lingered afterwards but it would have been very hard to talk about these from a psychological perspective. It was easier to link ongoing psychosocial effects to things like chronic cough and potential or actual exposure to a gas during the war. The most likely effect of chronic cough was cigarette smoking but, to the person involved and to his loved ones, the connection to being 'gassed' was very important. This does not mean that veterans were malingering or lying. It just means that we have to be cautious in interpreting the medical evidence, without in any way denigrating the perceptions of the men concerned.

 

Permanent widespread fibrosis of the lungs from any cause, including 'gas', will lead to death from heart failure and bronchial pneumonia. In these circumstances, death will occur after a long history of being very disabled with breathlessness. Bronchial pneumonia and heart failure were common causes of death. Far and away, people who died from these causes did not have permanent widespread lung fibrosis.

 

Robert

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seaJane   
seaJane

That's a very clear and interesting explanation, Robert: thank you.

 

sJ

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IJDALLINGER   
IJDALLINGER

Robert, I think that may have answered just about everyone's questions on the subject. I am very grateful, thank you. As he was employed as a Brewers carman before the war and everyone who met him after remembered him in bed I think that one of your explanations is likely. Trouble is that now it's difficult to pin it down. As I have said. I am grateful for your help. Best wishes. Ivor.

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Robert Dunlop   
Robert Dunlop

Pleasure. Happy to be of help.

 

Robert

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Robert Dunlop   
Robert Dunlop
1 hour ago, IJDALLINGER said:

As he was employed as a Brewers carman before the war and everyone who met him after remembered him in bed I think that one of your explanations is likely.

 

Ivor, assuming that a post-mortem was not done (i.e. that the causes of death were based on what the certifying doctor knew from the past medical history) then it would be very unusual not to have mentioned chronic lung disease on the death certificate rather than or in addition to heart failure. My instinct is that your great grandfather may have had problems with one or more heart valves, or perhaps a delayed presentation of a congenital heart problem. This would explain the mention of heart failure at a relatively young age, assuming that the heart failure was chronic and not an acute event precipitated by the pneumonia.

 

Robert

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IJDALLINGER   
IJDALLINGER

Thank you once again Robert. My family will be very interested in your help.

best wishes

ivor.

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