go hard or go home

Callie Wright (00:00):

Shout out to Oxen Rebecca for becoming new patrons this week and to Tuck for a pledge increase on Patreon this week. Thank you, friends. I love you lots. Heads up this episode deals with police brutality and the effects of chemical weapons on people and the environment. Please take care of yourself, friend. My name is Callie Weight, and this is Queersplaining.

Dr. Simonis (00:21):

So my name is Dr. Juniper L. Simonis, and I use they/them pronouns.

Callie Wright (00:28):

I know we’ve been doing a lot of more personal essay style episodes these last few months, and that’s important. There will be plenty more of those to come, but as I also like to spend time talking to and highlighting the work of rad, queer and trans folks who are doing important work. And Dr. Simonis is definitely one of those folks.

Dr. Simonis (00:48):

I am owner and lead scientist at DAPPER Stats or DAPPER LLC. And I consult with a variety of researchers doing population biology and conservation ecology kind of research. But I am also a founding member of the Chemical Weapons Research Consortium which is an interdisciplinary international research group that is interested in understanding the impact of chemical weapons on people on the environment and helping bringing an end to the use of chemical weapons. And when I’m not doing science, I’m often playing roller derby. And I am currently defending champion four times with the Rose City Rollers, Wheels of Justice. And looking forward to getting back at that once we can, after COVID.

Callie Wright (01:58):

When we think of the phrase chemical weapons, we often think of this nasty stuff that’s deployed in far off places and far off conflicts. Right? And that’s part of it. And I know that’s an idea I’d internalized, but it’s pretty important to note, that’s not the case. And there are lots of chemical weapons deployed all over the United States, especially in the last year or so.

Dr. Simonis (02:21):

Unfortunately through my work on the ecological impacts of the chemical weapons. Because that’s how I got involved in this. Right? It’s like, okay, they’re using these things all over the place in Portland. And I’m studying the salmon and there are salmon that live in the river and like, oh no, what’s happening. Right? That’s how I got involved research-wise. But in starting to uncover things, I’ve learned more and more about the history of the use of chemical weapons and I’ve started to understand and use some terminology from historical sorts of understandings of things.

Dr. Simonis (03:05):

And one of the particularly useful frames of reference that I have learned is what’s known as the imperial boomerang or foucault’s boomerang. And it’s the idea that tools that an imperialist country uses to subjugate civilians and military overseas will be used to subjugate civilians at home when the boomerang returns.

Dr. Simonis (03:36):

And a lot of what is now used chemical weapons-wise in the United States, like what we saw happen totally last year in Portland. And we’re seeing again, but what has been really heavily seen again recently in Brooklyn Center in Minnesota is use of chemical weaponry that was developed and honed for application in Central and South America, in Vietnam and Southeast Asia and in Europe during the world war I, world war II era.

Dr. Simonis (04:22):

A lot of that same weaponry, the same exact manufacturing style of the grenade and the same chemical formula has been used for a very long time. The other thing that I’ve started to uncover more and more as I’ve done this work, and a great example of this is this thing called a thermal fogger that we saw get brought out last year by the federal agents in Portland in the summer. And people were very surprised they had never heard about this before myself included.

Dr. Simonis (05:04):

I knew it was an insect fogger. I had never seen it used as a chemical weapons dispersing machine before. And lo and behold over the last couple three quarters of a year of poking around and doing some research on this. I’ve actually found over 20 instances of applications or deployments of the thermal fogger in the United States before 2020. And it was all brought home to apply chemical weapons to racial justice and anti-war protestors in the late 1960s and early 1970s, just three years after being developed in the jungles of Vietnam to gas civilians out of tunnels.

Dr. Simonis (06:12):

And the fact that I didn’t know this history about the severe use of chemical weapons during the civil rights protests of the sixties and seventies and the anti-war protests, I don’t think is uncommon. I think we all have some understanding that there were protests and that there was physical violence and that like at Kent state, there were there was lethal force used. But I didn’t really know about the scope and scale of the chemical weapons that were used then.

Dr. Simonis (06:49):

It’s literally three years to the day. It’s like August 8th, 1965 is when the first deployment according to the army, the first deployment of a thermal fogger was tried in Vietnam. And then in 1968, it was the Miami, the Liberty city riots. And they call them riots. Whatever you want to call them, it was basically the same thing that we see today. A lot of times where white racist, supremacist folks attack black people standing up for their rights and then the police come and attack the black people and say the black people started it.

Dr. Simonis (07:38):

It’s a similar story narrative-wise to what we see now. And it’s really scary to me to see that the chemical weapons, these thermal foggers or CS gas or whatever it was literally deployed back then. And we are still getting this stuff now. And it’s like we’re not learning about this. We’re not hearing about this in protest spaces, let alone in public education spaces. Right? But like, I’m not even hearing about this from other folks who know about protests of the sixties and seventies in some very key places where these weapons were deployed.

Dr. Simonis (08:20):

So like I don’t know what’s happened in terms of the collective memory but I’m really hoping that we can do more to bridge the generational gap and to learn from what our elders and these kinds of spaces went through when they were protesting similar things 40 years ago. Right? I hate that we’re repeating the same things now and it’s scary, but at least we have better gas masks for everybody.

Callie Wright (09:00):

Oh God, I hate that. That’s yeah, you’re right.

Dr. Simonis (09:12):

Pretty early on in the protest in Portland, I discovered that they love to use chemical weapons here including on what was came to be known as tear gas, Tuesday and in the early throws of things last year. And I was really lucky these couple of times, because I have PTSD and I have a service dog Wallace who has been with me for five and a half years and is amazing and goes everywhere with me because I need him to stay alive and I need him in order for me to stay alive.

Dr. Simonis (09:57):

And he is obviously super sensitive to any kind of chemical weapon. He is a quarter of my size. Right? I’m 200 pounds, he’s 50 pounds. And I have a better gas mask, but yes, they do make doggy gas masks, but they don’t really fit. And he’s a labradoodle. So like good luck getting a seal. But then it was down there and saw literally federal agents gassing into open cars going through downtown. And I had to help people who were a family that was spilling out of their car, their minivan, because their eyes burned and they couldn’t see. And they were like literally in the middle of the street in an intersection.

Dr. Simonis (10:54):

And so like I was sort of in it, as things were going off around me. That experience really made me understand sort of the density at which the agents that were coming in now were willing to use this kind of stuff. On July 7th, there was a vigil for Summer Taylor who is a person up in Seattle who was murdered by somebody driving their car through a protest on the interstate. And there was a vigil for them downtown, like near the justice center near where all this stuff is happening in Portland protest-wise, in the downtown area.

Dr. Simonis (11:45):

That night was the first time anybody saw federal agents coming out of the IRS building, which is next to the Justice Center on the other side from the courthouse, it’s the IRS and the Immigration Court building. And a couple of other things like the forest service and stuff. It’s a federal building that has a whole lot of offices and things in it. It’s not a place that anybody really expected agents to be coming out of. And all of a sudden there were cammo clad agents without any warning, without any description of who they were throwing, flash bang, grenades into this vigil to cut across the city park, to try and snatch somebody. And on the way back after we the whole crowd of people that were at this vigil yelled them out.

Dr. Simonis (12:45):

Because again, this was early in their experience on the ground in Portland, they were not being as heavy handed and they were not as like ready to receive yell back from a crowd. And that night we actually yelled them out of most of the park that we were holding the vigil in but on their way back to the building, one of them through a flash bang directly at Wallace, my service dog. I’m really, really lucky that it was 15 feet away and not closer. And I’m really, really lucky that Wallace has a lot of hair because he’s a labradoodle and he’s got floppy ears cause he’s a labradoodle. And so he’s got natural ear muffs which is really, really good because those things are rated based on how loud they are to people not how loud they are to dogs who are considerably closer to them on the ground.

Dr. Simonis (14:08):

I was livid. We all were livid, but I was on top of everything else. Now, dog, mom, and also disabled person who relies heavily on this dog to survive and wanting to follow up. I tried to figure out who these people were and continue to get the run arounds. And while I was doing that during the day, I wanted to be able to protest in whatever way made sense. Right? People came out of this building through Flash bang grenade on my service dog. I want to be able to protest them in order to be able to them. I need to know where the federal property line is.

Callie Wright (14:57):

This matters because property lines are kind of weird in Portland. And as a protestor, it’s important to know where you are and aren’t supposed to be, of course I’m not an advocate for always following the rules, but it is good to know what those rules are.

Dr. Simonis (15:13):

And so I went and got the property maps and what, and got surveyors chalk, which is like semi persistent but not permanent. And like appropriate marking materials and such and measuring materials, like the little Walker measurer, and I went to the building and was marking the property line.

Dr. Simonis (15:39):

This was July 9th. That day those agents came out. It was a Thursday evening, maybe like six o’clock, seven o’clock, something like that. But in the middle of the summer, so bright as day, especially up here at this latitude. They nearly snatched me off the sidewalk from behind the building. And I managed to somehow not get snatched, but I had a body cam and other cameras and there was somebody else who was videoing.

Dr. Simonis (16:18):

And so that was when I started to help us figure out who the folks and cammo were. And that’s when we actually figured out that we could tell, it said bortec, but it was like blotted out with like tan cammo paint or whatever partially, but you could still actually read it. And so we could figure out it was them.

Callie Wright (16:42):

These are the border control people that were sent to the protest areas. You probably remember seeing videos of people saying like, who are these people in cammo that don’t have markings. They won’t identify themselves. So, yeah, that was those folks.

Dr. Simonis (16:56):

But thankfully I survived that night but then the next night, Friday, get down there again, we need to update the chalk. Because they pressure washed some of it away or whatever, because it’s just chalk and went back and remarked it and then was writing on the sidewalk, which is a city sidewalk in chalk. Just so we’re all on the same page. This is not federal property. And while I was doing that, that group of agents came out and brutally kidnapped and assaulted me. And there’s videos online. People can see it if they want to see it. There’s plenty of stuff written out about the details about what happened afterwards. Right?

Dr. Simonis (17:46):

But suffice it to say I was held for nine hours without Wallace, my service dog, without access to potable water with only one contact in and without access to medical care, after being maced and left by myself. And I had been coercively handcuffed for two hours. I still have neuropathy in both of my hands. That’s measurable. I’m go into PT. I just graduated from OT, but it’s persistent. Right? And it sucks. And so I have physical trauma, but then also obviously mental trauma from a situation like that.

Dr. Simonis (18:31):

So in the middle of July, I am understandably staying involved but not able to be present on the front lines at anytime when the feds are around or at night.

Callie Wright (18:53):

Over the course of the next few days, because of videos like the one of Juniper getting snatched and other acts of police brutality against protesters, the crowd started to grow exponentially.

Dr. Simonis (19:04):

And that’s when the feds are like, Oh, okay, we’re going to shut this down. And they tried to put fencing in and then people took down the fencing. And so then they went heavy handed on these chemical weapons. That’s when they brought out the thermal or sensor depending on what branch of Catholicism you grew up in. I grew up in Roman Catholicism and we called it a censor and my church, but the swinging incense thing, they basically have a stick that has a little pot on the end of it that they stick grenades into.

Dr. Simonis (19:45):

And they usually use it for training. But for whatever reason, they decided to bring it out that night. And that caught people’s attention. You have them bring out this thorough bowl that looks like it’s on fire, that’s smoking and smoking and smoking. And it looks like some scene out of unholy church movie. Right?

Dr. Simonis (20:12):

And that night also started reports of novel symptoms. I didn’t fully realize it was that night that things started until the work that I’ve done was done. But at that time, people started experiencing symptoms that were qualitatively different and impacted different parts of their body then tear gas that they had been exposed to for the past month plus at that point. That was where things started to alarm me.

Dr. Simonis (21:01):

And like I said, I didn’t quite catch up on it that night, because I was also like, “Oh, what the heck is this thing? This is ridiculous.” I was thinking about that. But then the next couple of days, these reports started coming out from my friends who have been on the front lines that they feel like they’re so hung over that they can’t get out of bed for two days after the protest, they don’t drink alcohol. Right? Something was weird. People were mass vomiting all at once. There was intense skin rash. All these symptoms that people were were reporting that now we know in retrospect is part and parcel for hexachlorophene smoke exposure. And at the time none of us had any idea. So hexachlorophene is a big fancy word for a not very complicated compound.

Callie Wright (22:11):

It’d be easy to get way, way in the weeds, on the chemistry, on this stuff. But suffice it to say this shit is like super nasty. They put it in smoke grenades. And-

Dr. Simonis (22:21):

What comes out is primarily gaseous, molten, zinc gas and chloride gas, chloride ion. So not chlorine gas, not CO2, but chloride ions, because normally you would have ZnCl2. And so what’s happening is as the Zinc oxide is burning, it’s also breaking apart. And the problem is that zinc ions and chloride ions have a funny way of complimenting each other.

Dr. Simonis (23:03):

So chloride ions are very, very caustic. chlorine is a bleach. Chlorine containing compounds, oxidized things. It’s sort of the way that we think about it. They’re caustic in a way that if you get chlorine on your skin, it’s going to cause your skin to crack and open up. And that’s because it’s like really attacking the epithelial cells that are your skin cells in terms of their structural integrity, because it’s an ion and it wants to bond with stuff and it messes things up and it up whatever epithelial cells that ends up coming into contact with.

Dr. Simonis (23:50):

And so that’s why we see folks with chemical burns. Not rashes you get from CS that are still bad, but literal chemical burns that look like you’ve dumped a base from chemistry on yourself. Right? Like, oh shit, you were in chemistry class and you were supposed to be wearing gloves when you were working with this base and you did and then you spilled some on yourself. That little bit of burn or whatever the way that burn looks, that’s what people were seeing.

Dr. Simonis (24:17):

People were also vomiting a lot of the time because they weren’t wearing gas masks and areas where they were exposed. You don’t necessarily notice the exposure at first because it doesn’t have a particular smell. And you can end up inhaling things that feel kind of sharp, but then fuck you up minutes to days later. And what happens sometimes is it gets around your mask and it forces people because it like, Oh my gosh aside here, the army did so much good research on this and OSHA did really good research on this environmental health folks, whatever the case literally know way to safely produce these grenades with that full on PPE, full on mop suit guys. They were doing these tests on people. It still got into their system.

Dr. Simonis (25:11):

So like in a worker its way around your mask, and if your mask isn’t sealed perfectly, it causes you to take it off and then you gulp air and then you ingest things. So that’s how it gets into both your stomach and any of your your nose and your throat and your bronchial tubes. It gets into both your esophagus and your lungs, your stomach and your lungs. Right? It gets into your ears and it gets into your eyes. And in all of these spaces, those chloride ions are aggressive and can break epithelial skin cells or epithelial cells inside of your nose and throat or in your esophagus.

Dr. Simonis (26:01):

And so I am at home because I don’t feel safe being out at the time. And I’m seeing everybody talk about tweet about these new symptoms that they were experiencing and wondering, okay, what is actually in this stuff? And as a scientist, I was like, I’m going to start trying to figure out what I can find out that’s available, that’s in this stuff.

Dr. Simonis (26:29):

And so I was like looking on Twitter and news accounts and stuff, where there were different pictures or whatever of weapons that folks had found. And like just started going to manufacturers websites and compiling information on what these weapons were and kind of what was in them. And a very like critical piece of information that I’m used to reading and dealing with because of my scientific background is what’s known as a SDS or a safety data sheet.

Dr. Simonis (27:07):

An SDS is a formalized governmentally regulated document that details all of the pertinent, supposedly, safety information regarding anything of a chemical nature. So I started looking in to what I could find and thankfully the horrible company, defense technology that manufacturers, most of the weapons that have been used in Portland has a really great archive of their SDS online.

Dr. Simonis (27:53):

And so I was able to find a lot of this stuff, and I was basically looking at a whole bunch of SDS that said toxic to aquatic environments with long lasting impacts. That’s a standardized phrase that is applied to certain kinds of chemicals that have certain kinds of impacts. And when you see that one as a scientist who studies aquatic environments and ecosystems and organisms and likes the water and stuff that makes me concerned about the health of the aquatic environment.

Dr. Simonis (28:35):

But two, as somebody who can translate that into people speak makes me very concerned for people who use the aquatic environment for recreation or water for sustenance or for food, or believe as many indigenous tribes to the area, believe that water is sacred because water brings life. The pollution of the aquatic environment is like severe in many ways, but then why would that matter if we’re protesting around a courthouse?

Dr. Simonis (29:17):

Well, that area of downtown Portland and around the courthouse, and then also the area around the Ice Rental Property in South Waterfront are part of the as of yet to be upgraded Portland stormwater system and the stormwater drains from these areas into the Willamette river and a thousand feet or 2000 feet downhill with no filtration whatsoever. And this goes out to areas that are actively attempting to be restored for salmon rearing habitat and a beach that people regularly attend.

Dr. Simonis (30:09):

And that’s where it connects me back to the other part of what I was realizing and looking at this stuff, is that not only are people being exposed potentially at the beach, but obviously also up on the street when they’re protesting. Right? And this stuff that’s saying it has toxic effects with long lasting impacts in the aquatic environments, as also saying like, “Hey, you really shouldn’t get this on your skin. You really shouldn’t breathe it in. You really shouldn’t eat it. You shouldn’t get anywhere near it.” And this is not just the tear gas, like the CS gas or the OSI gas, the pepper gas, it’s also the smoke, whether it’s this hexachlorophene stuff that’s really, really bad and giving people novel symptoms or it’s the “safe smoke”. All of it is very, very bad for the entire environment, including people because people are part of the environment. Right?

Dr. Simonis (31:17):

And so as I was at home, recovering physically and mentally from this, really what started to actually get me motivated again, in a way that was allowing me to help work through and process some of that trauma was actually realization that while there are folks like Don’t Shoot PDX and Kaiser Permanente and Planned Parenthood and University of Minnesota that are doing work on human health and community health, nobody was really working right now on environmental health.

Dr. Simonis (32:03):

And so realizing that my particular expertise could be brought to bear and really start to try to understand the impacts of these chemical weapons through the lens of its broad environmental impact was going to… I could see that that was going to be really important because it would augment the work that was being done. And it was something that I felt called to do in a way that I’ve never felt called to do research before.

Dr. Simonis (32:45):

I needed to do involve myself in the field in various ways to start to understand the scope and scale of the impact because if I’m going to study the effect that chemical weapons have on salmon and by the way, the salmon get eaten by sea lions and fished and eaten by people.

Dr. Simonis (33:17):

And so a lot of the stuff that gets into salmon, the heavy metals, like lead and chromium and zinc, if you eat fish, you would eat it. Right? So bioaccumulation is a huge thing. Right? And if we want to start to understand what’s getting into the ecosystem and getting to salmon or getting to the trees or whatever, we need to have a sense of how much was actually used and what was actually used.

Dr. Simonis (33:55):

I was not previously aware of any of the details about chemical weapons, eco toxicology, specifically, I have a chemistry background. I have a toxicology background, but the intersection had not met in my head before or any research space that I had done before. And so that’s always interesting to me as a researcher because it means I get to dive in and learn stuff from it, new field. Well, and so I read a lot of research papers on the topic and it turns out this is not a unique story.

Dr. Simonis (34:35):

There’s decades of research showing how it shouldn’t be used on or near people in any real way. And then despite that you have manufacturers and then trainers and police officers, and the media saying, we don’t know if there’s an impact and a perfect example of this is the impact of CS gas on folks who menstruate.

Dr. Simonis (35:10):

And a lot of people in the media and the police like to say that, “Oh, we don’t know if it has an impact on hormone cycles.” But actually there was a study that was done in 1978 or 79 that showed on rats the lab rat equivalent of a human because you didn’t want to do this to a human when they injected them with CS, it totally messed with their hormone levels and their steroid levels.

Dr. Simonis (35:43):

So like we know that it should have these kinds of effects and there’s been a bunch of other research along those lines and yet people up [inaudible 00:35:52] including now are like, “We don’t know if there is an impact.” And so that’s why it’s so important that work by the folks from Kaiser Permanente and University of Minnesota that just came out yesterday in BMC, some kind of BMC journal, the importance of that study, where they actually did, they followed, they didn’t follow actually, it was a self reporting thing and it was over 2200 reporting individuals and just an absurd number of people had health effects in general.

Dr. Simonis (36:32):

And basically half the folks who could have an impact on their menstrual cycle stuff had an impact on their menstrual stuff in a way that is not in alignment with standard understanding of how stress impacts it which is what everybody uses as this alternative hypothesis. So it’s super scary that the results of the law enforcement agencies and the manufacturers and the media in particular failing to do their diligence about the science that’s available already on the topic. And it’s not hidden. You could go to pub chem, which is the federal government’s publicly available chemistry repository of information. And you could find this information and the media’s failure to do their due diligence on this has meant that we had to have a real life exposure.

Callie Wright (37:50):

It’s only been about a year in scientific research terms. That’s not a lot of time, but it’s definitely enough time to get started and gather this data and try to figure out what the effects of this stuff will be longterm on people and the environment.

Dr. Simonis (38:05):

We started doing a lot of collections that are bare minimum counts that are going to help us provide statements of we know you used at least this much. Right? Even if we don’t have the actual estimate of something it’s still very useful. And so basically we recovered and by we, I mean, people who are out on the ground at various times during July of 2020 recovered 20 grenades of hexachlorophene smoke that either were duds or deployed. Actually they were all deployed. Either the duds were actually detonated. But for the number of stuff, 20 were recovered because of the amount of video and whatnot that was publicly available on these events. There were five more that I can definitively say from watching video and given the burn patterns of HC that’s specific and unique, these five additional grenades were deployed but not recovered.

Dr. Simonis (39:22):

We know that there were 25. We estimated that there could have been up to 30 within a sort of like 95% confidence posterior interval, but the take home of it. Right? Is that not only is this a lot of grenades but this weapon is lethal. If you put things on a scale of, I don’t know… It’s hard to do this without visuals because I just tried to do like low and high but basically like tear gas, like CS gas and OC is bad and it will cause acute and chronic problems.

Dr. Simonis (40:14):

HC is lethal and that’s known by a history that’s actually well-documented of its use. There’s a study that I cite in this report that talks about. The proportion of folks that have died that have been known to been exposed. And the data are pretty square up that when this stuff gets used indoors, it is lethal when it gets used outdoors in enclosed spaces, it can still be lethal.

Dr. Simonis (40:56):

It was designed to be used in open spaces, outdoors. It was designed as a munitions smoke to guard tanks and battleships. It has had longterm impacts on the growth of trees and the forests where it was used in World War II and we see impacts that it’s had downtown on trees already. And all of this research has existed to say that it’s lethal. Right? If it’s used in enclosed spaces. Certainly if it’s used inside. And I think that the issue that a lot of folks have when it comes to like tear gas and indoors, outdoors kind of thing. They have [inaudible 00:41:45], it’s outside. So it’s okay.

Dr. Simonis (41:47):

And it’s like, no, it’s not about indoors or outdoors. It’s really about in closed versus open. And Portland downtown has a big tree canopy. There were thousands of people there, there were tents, there were cars, there buildings everywhere. It’s not an open space. And so that’s why people a good distance out of the, where you would think the plume would have been, were impacted by it because it was like kind of like kept down. And if it’s diffusion and like in retrospect what’s happened is a lot of things have started to make sense about people’s health exposures and consequences and the environmental response and stuff.

Dr. Simonis (42:43):

And so really like what’s in this particular report is sort of bringing a lot of that history tightly together then just kind of go went through it like you would in a research introduction because that’s what it is. But it being like really relevant impact information because it’s been studied forever. And then the actual result, the quantification is useful to know for us because DHS continues to disacknowledge it’s use of hexachlorophene.

Dr. Simonis (43:26):

Let me say that again. I have this paper that shows publicly and documents through photographic evidence at least 20 grenades because we’ve recovered them. And then additional likely five grenades of hexachlorophene that were definitively released by DHS. After I was exposed, I felt the repercussions, not as things coming back up, but as things going out faster, part of what your body does is also have to deal with the zinc poisoning because zinc is that heavy metal that is known to be poisonous and lethal.

Dr. Simonis (44:12):

There’s a thing called metal fume fever that welders are aware of. It’s why you don’t weld zinc or arsenic or a couple of other things because when you do you can end up inhaling or getting on you, but in particular inhaling, because then you’re just dealing with the zinc fumes. Here because the chlorine is breaking your skin cells like zinc landing on your skin is going to get into your body in a way that it wouldn’t if you were welding.

Dr. Simonis (44:46):

But here because there’s not chlorine when you’re welding, but here because there’s also fogging chlorine, it like makes your body way easier to uptake zinc and zinc can cause significant problems in particular with liver and kidney function. Your body is able to process it. It takes a very long time, but you can process it out. It’s not something that stays in your body forever, but it’s consequences can because it takes upwards of 10 days to clear from your system. What this shows or highlights is that this stuff gets into your body kind of wherever it does, whether it’s your skin or your stomach or your ears and makes its way into your bloodstream in your bloodstream. It has to go into your liver to get filtered and then processed out through your kidneys. That’s why from what I’ve read, it appears that most of the longer term impacts on folks exposed to HC has to with liver and kidney function.

Dr. Simonis (46:01):

Whereas the immediate exposure impacts can be lethal if you’re exposed enough. And so like I’ve experienced a pretty gnarly exposure on a couple of occasions but thankfully they have been in a relatively open air but I have seen reports of people who have been exposed in more confined areas, talk to people who’ve been exposed in more confined areas and they regularly tell you that they were vomiting up blood or black stuff or doubled over retching.

Dr. Simonis (46:38):

Personally, I didn’t have that vomit reaction. I did, however end up inhaling a bunch of it in one way or another because what I felt was a vice grip on my sternum for two days, in addition to some pretty severe lethargy the next day, which is usually caused by the body having to clear out this toxin that’s poisoning you. Right? So like that takes a lot of energy. That’s why people couldn’t get out of bed for a couple of days and felt like they were hung over and they needed to just keep drinking water because their body was clearing out a severe like metal toxin.

Dr. Simonis (47:18):

And like that all makes sense. And like I said, the way that I felt it most poignantly beyond that lethargy was this really tight grip on my sternum that I had never felt before. And it lasted for two days and I haven’t felt it since. And that’s pretty scary when you’re like, “Oh, okay. I know that I have been poisoned with something that may have lethal consequences.” I don’t know how many years I just shaved off of my life at this point. I don’t know if it’s going to be liver or lung cancer or skin cancer really.

Dr. Simonis (47:59):

I am a very light-skinned person with a lot of freckles, but I burn easily. So I’m living on borrowed time already. But this work is definitely going to shorten my life span and one way or another which is kind of scary. But I think it’s important. I’d rather spend years doing this then years in a retirement home, 50 years from now with busted knees because I’ve played sports and not being able to move or whatever. I don’t know. Fuck it, like go hard or go home.

Callie Wright (48:34):

The work here is ongoing. I’m going to put some links in the show notes where you can find the report that Dr. Simonis is referring to and how you can connect with them and learn more about the things they are doing. Dr. Simonis my friend. Thank you for the important work that you’re doing. And thanks for coming on the show to share it with us. And thank you, my friend for listening.

Callie Wright (48:55):

You want to help keep this thing going consider heading over to patrion.com/queersplaining, making a pledge to support the show. Another great way to help is to share the show around with your friends. Share us out on social media, texting a friend, shout about it to a stranger from a safe social distance. Whatever’s your thing. It all helps it’s all [inaudible 00:49:13].

Callie Wright (49:14):

Before I go. I want you to know that if you’re lost, you’re hurting, you’re scared if you feel like no one cares and no one understands, you need to know there’s a community out here that loves you, cares for you, knows that you’re capable of amazing things and that you are worthy of love. If you’re struggling, please, don’t be afraid to reach out. Until next time friend. My name is Callie Wright and this is Queersplaining.