To begin with the definition of clinical ecology, also known as environmental medicine, it is the method used to diagnose and treat illnesses caused by the patient's environment. Such illnesses may involve allergies, chemical sensitivities and reactions, asthma, and a host of other ailments ranging from hayfever to cancer. To further look at this field, one needs to first disregard all the counterclaims by those in the allopathic medical field, or traditional medicine. Clearly stated, clinical ecology takes the stand that the human body, being part of the environment, is affected--often adversely--by chemicals that are not meant to be part of that environment. Thus a great deal of health problems plaguing human beings today are the result of the body's reactions to irritants, pollutants, causing unnatural assaults on its various systems. Our bodies and the systems operant within them are created organically and therefore are designed to function with natural input, not something made in a lab.
The terms "clinical ecology" and "clinical ecologist" (a doctor specializing in this field) were first used by the late Dr. Theron Randolph, an allergist and researcher in environmental medicine in the late twentieth century. As a co-founder of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, and founder of the Nutrition for Optimal Health Association, Dr. Randolph led a movement of health professionals who recognized that the patients many of them were treating were being made ill by the artificial substances around them in their daily lives. These substances causing harm came from people's jobs, schools, homes, and outdoor sources.
Certainly this area of medicine is known for controversy; then again, there was much vehement disagreement over such issues as Love Canal and the water contamination by Pacific Gas & Electric here in California, as investigated by Erin Brockovich. It is hard to deny, however, that chemicals such as formaldehyde (just for one example), commonly found in household articles, building materials, and tobacco, are harmless to health. By testing a patient's reactions to a substance such as this, and investigating circumstances such as lifestyle and diet, work/school area, and home environment, the clinical ecologist can determine what the underlying causes of a person's illness are. Rather than only treating symptoms by suppression, the toxicity factors are removed as much as possible from the patient's life. For situations where someone may not be able to take such action, other treatments are given such as allergy shots or sublingual (under-the-tongue) drops to desensitize the patient. Despite what detractors claim, the patients receiving such care report great improvement in their condition whereas they often were dismissed as neurotic by conventional allopathic doctors.
Detractors and narrow-minded traditionalists in abundance will continue to scoff at those both practicing and receiving clinical ecology. The government will, no doubt, keep on excluding such medicine from its approved forms of treatment. Insurance companies, even for long-time accepted alternative types of medicine like chiropractic, are extremely slow to give coverage for anything even remotely outside of the so-called norm. Yet with over thirty per cent of Americans choosing alternative medicine, including clinical ecology, the tide is bound to turn eventually.