Environmental Medical Unit
What is an EMU?
The EMU is a pristine, environmentally‐controlled hospital or medical unit in which patients can be housed long enough, about 4 to 7 days, to achieve a clean baseline, free of environmentally‐triggered symptoms. An EMU facilitates double-blind, placebo‐controlled challenges with even very low levels of exposures. It will allow researchers to observe patients’ symptoms prior to entry into the EMU after unmasking, and before and after specific challenges, while at the same time employing objective measures such as proteomics, pulmonary function testing, and brain imaging.
An EMU must be constructed, furnished, and operated so as to minimize exposure to airborne chemicals. It must be made from non-outgassing materials. No disinfectants, fragrances, or pesticides would be allowed. Ventilation should maximize fresh air and provide optimal filtration for particles (HEPA filters) and gases (charcoal filters). Pure water and organic foods for a rotary elimination diet would be used and, in some cases, fasting may be necessary for achieving a clean baseline.
When all exposures are eliminated concurrently in the EMU, environmentally‐induced symptoms will resolve, generally within 4 to 7 days. During this period, withdrawal symptoms typically occur (e.g., headaches, fatigue, joint pain) but once a clean baseline is reached, patients often report their symptoms improved or completely removed. Once the individual has reached a clean baseline, researchers can perform challenges with single exposures one‐at‐a‐time and observe responses in the absence of background noise.
Plans for an EMU
It’s impossible to imagine a major hospital without an ICU or a CCU. Likewise, large hospitals need EMUs for diagnosing and treating illnesses in which environmental exposures are suspected of playing a role. Examples include chemical intolerance, asthma, autoimmune diseases, and autism. Without an EMU, physicians and researchers can’t eliminate background exposures to definitively determine whether a patient can improve when chemical and food triggers are removed. A hospital, in which emergency services are readily available, is the safest location for an EMU. The following are criteria for an EMU:
- Filtered air supply and continuous air monitoring to ensure the removal of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and fine particulates (e.g., charcoal filters plus HEPA filters)
- Positive pressure, relative to surrounding hospital areas
- Pure spring or filtered water
- Organic foods
- Non-outgassing furnishings and construction materials (no chemicals being released to the air)
- Safest possible cleaning and operational practices