Sculptor diagnosed with heavy-metal poisoning after years of grinding mussel shells

Since 1991, Canadian sculptor Gillian Genser has used shells to make her artwork. The mussel shells she grinded released dust filled with heavy metals, which got into her body and poisoned her. Now she is permanently disabled. Let this serve as a warning to people who say natural materials are always better.

From Toronto Life:

The symptoms worsened. After a few hours of grinding mussel shells, I would become immobilized. My muscles ached. My hands would cramp when I held my tools. I became combative and fatalistic, declaring that my life was over. My husband was afraid to the leave the house, worried he’d come home and find me hanging from the chandelier. He found friends to babysit me. These symptoms continued, on and off, for 15 years.

One day in 2013, I cleaned out my ventilation system, which had trapped years of fine dust. As I swept out the particles, I suddenly felt weak and unable to stand. For the next week, I lay in bed, my mind in a fog. I couldn’t string full sentences together, and my speech was slurred. My whole body was in excruciating, paralyzing pain—my neck, abdomen, arms—and I had suddenly lost all hearing in my left ear.

Image: Shutterstock/Ingrid Maasik