September 2012

Taylor Morris and Danielle Kelly Disabled Veteran Love Story

Recent Quadruple Amputee Veteran Already Dancing Again

Taylor Morris and Danielle Kelly have the kind of love story that you might have thought only Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, A Walk to Remember) could dream up. Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy goes off to war… but this couple currently capturing the hearts of the world has had a rough road to happily ever after. On May 3, while serving as a Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician, Morris stepped on an old IED. He lost both legs, his left arm, and his right hand.

Recovering Quad Amputee Vet Taylor Morris with Girlfriend

“As soon as I stepped on it, I knew,” Morris said. “There was a moment, then I heard the blast. I felt the head. I knew I had lost my legs. As I somersaulted through the air, I watched my legs fly off.”

Few people survive such an explosion, let alone the quadruple amputation that followed his accident. Morris never lost consciousness and was in control enough to make medics stay back until the area was declared safe.

Taylor Morris Recovering at Walter Reed

Amputee Veteran Taylor Morris at Walter Reed

Amputee Taylor Morris and Danielle Kelly at Walter Reed Hospital Therapy

His girlfriend recalls the day of the fateful explosion, “I don’t think a second of that day will ever fade from my memory. I try not to think back on that day, because it brings back all the raw feelings. Instead, we are looking forward.”

Looking forward and moving forward, to be exact. While Morris has been recovering and going through intensive physical therapy at Walter Reed, the couple is making big plans for the future, thanks to the kindness of strangers.

Quad Amputee Veteran Taylor Morris at Walter Reed Hospital Therapy

Quad Amputee Veteran Taylor Morris with Prosthetic Legs and Wheelchair

Quadruple Amputee Veteran Taylor Morris

The website The Chive posted the couple’s story in May, where Morris confided the pair’s joint plans to eventually have a waterfront log cabin. The Chive, in an effort to recognize Morris’s sacrifice, asked for donations. The story went viral, raising over $250,000 for the hero and his future bride.

Even though his accident was just five months ago, Morris is beating all of the odds. Not only did he survive, but less than four months after the accident, he was already able to travel back home to Iowa for the wedding of close friends, where he was filmed upright on prosthetics and dancing with his sweetheart!

Taylor Morris Veteran Quad Amputee Comes Home

Amputee Vet Taylor Morris Back in Iowa

Veteran Taylor Morris and Danielle Kelly at Wedding

Be warned: you’ll want to have the tissues handy when you watch this video!


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AMS Vans sells affordable wheelchair accessible vans

AMS Vans Celebrates Its ‘Best Year Ever!’

We have YOU to thank! After more than a decade of giving people with disabilities greater freedom and independence by selling new and used wheelchair accessible vans at affordable prices, AMS Vans owner Kip Crum reports that 2012 is the company’s most successful year ever!

Kip says it’s all due to our loyal customers and the company’s winning combination.

“Customers have responded to our open, honest marketing approach, and they discover early on that our enthusiastic sales team is going to take the best possible care of them. The design and quality of our conversions and several other value-added services also contribute to our success, but most important, it’s our low-price guarantee on our new AMS wheelchair conversions and the affordability of our used accessible vans for sale that puts us over the top. No hassles, no gimmicks, just the best-priced wheelchair accessible vans in the mobility industry.”

Along with affordable handicap van prices, AMS Vans also provides nationwide van delivery, in-depth funding information, and a sales process uniquely designed to foster a family atmosphere.

From the beginning, Kip’s mission in building the company was and still is to put an affordable vehicle into the hands of everyone who needs handicap transportation. The company buys used minivans, performs a 125-point inspection to make the vans “certified used,” adds a quality, built-to-last wheelchair accessible conversion, and sells them at affordable prices. But we don’t stop there! AMS Vans buys already-modified full-size vans, minivans, SUVs, pick-up trucks, and MV-1s, which are also sold at low prices.

Customers love our prices and our 100% satisfaction guarantee. On the day of delivery, if the customer isn’t satisfied with the van for any reason, the company takes it back and cancels the sale, with no questions asked.

Kip says he would never put a customer in a vehicle he wouldn’t put his family in, and the company’s success proves it. In fact, customer referrals have played a significant role in the increase of sales and revenue, demonstrating the power of word-of-mouth marketing. More than 500 customer testimonials on the AMS Vans web site tell us we’re moving in the right direction.

With momentum growing, the company has big plans for the coming year. We’ll keep you posted on all the new, exciting activity, as AMS Vans expands its mission to make sure people with disabilities have the freedom and independence they deserve.

Disabilities Boycott of Hotels Without Accessible Pools

Disabilities Group Boycotts Hotels Over Pool Accessibility

What started out as a disagreement over hotel pool wheelchair lifts has escalated into a full boycott of some of the country’s top hotel chains as the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) take opposite stands on the heated debate.

Disabilities Group Boycott of Hotels Without Accessible Pools

The Background Story

What both sides do agree on is that American travelers with disabilities deserve access to the same hotel amenities that able-bodied travelers enjoy. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division published rules regarding accessible pools in 2010. In May of 2012, the rules were updated in response to feedback from the hotel industry, regarding challenges hotels faced while trying to implement the changes.

Accessible Pool Hotel Boycott

The Americans with Disabilities Act ruling requires that all public swimming areas, which includes hotels and motels, be retrofitted to make them accessible to people with disabilities. All new construction of pools must be done in a way that allows a person with a disability to enjoy the same independence, ease, and convenience enjoyed by those without disabilities. The last update gave the hotels until January 31, 2013 to comply.

One of the big points of debate is the type of wheelchair lifts that should be required. The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is urging hotels to pick up the pace in the renovations, and also to invest in permanent lifts instead of portable models. Permanent lifts are typically easier to use and more accessible, but they come with a much higher cost than portable lifts do. The new regulation also requires that each body of water have lift access, and that large pools have more than one entry point for disabled swimmers. Permanent lifts require more space poolside and sometimes require digging up concrete and placing electrical conduits.

Hotel Pools Disability Boycott

The hotels claim the expense is too great and the demands not always possible to fulfill. Permanent lifts can be dangerous when there is not a lifeguard on duty, as the hydraulic lifts move quickly and can cause injury. In addition, many hotels were built in a way that providing multiple lifts between a pool and a spa, while leaving room for guests to safely navigate around the area safely, is not possible.

“Our industry really wants to accommodate guests and it’s in our best interest to do that, but we want to provide access safely for everyone,” said Marlene Colucci, the executive vice president for policy for the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) in Washington, DC. “We’re asking the federal government to take a balanced approach,” she said. “You should be able to share a lift between two bodies of water in the same area, for example.”

Disability Pool Lift for Accessibility

The Battle

The AAPD says the hotels aren’t trying hard enough. Along with the National Disability Rights Network, the National Council on Independent Living, and ADAPT, they have been organizing boycotts against the hotels that lack a fixed wheelchair lift in their pool areas.

“You have a lot of big hotel chains hiding behind the trade group associations saying on one hand they want to work to support people with disabilities, and on the other hand, they’re actively working against equality,” says AAPD CEO Mark Perriello.

In addition to boycotting hotels based on the lack of a fixed lift, the boycott organizers are also asking supporters to steer conventions, meetings and leisure travel away from hotels whose leaders fought to delay the regulations. They also plan to make a website that will blow the whistle on hotels that do not have fixed lifts in place. The website will also include a “wall of shame.”

Disabilities Group Boycotts Hotels Without Accessible Pools

“I think it’s an unfortunate move,” says Eric Reller, a lobbyist with the hotel industry’s AHLA, of the boycott. “We’ve never advocated taking anything away from the ADA. We still advocate for access to pools. We’re fully compliant with hundreds of new ADA regulations,” he says.

He also said he views the boycott as a “fundraising and membership drive.”

What do you think: did lack of pool accessibility affect your vacation this year–boycott or no boycott? And will it play a role in your future destination plans?

Hotel Pools Without Disability Lifts Boycotted


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Toddler Teaches Dad After Stroke

After Stroke, Locked-In Dad Learned from His Infant Daughter

Mark Ellis was only 22 years old when he suffered a major stroke and developed what is commonly referred to as “locked-in syndrome,” a serious condition that leaves the victim with full mental capacity, but no ability to control his or her body. Thanks to the help of his infant daughter, Lola-Rose, he is defeating the odds and learning to walk and talk again.

Dad with Locked-In Syndrome Learns from Toddler

In August of 2010, Mark Ellis and his 32-year-old wife Amy had just celebrated the birth of their daughter. Mark was working at a mobile phone store and complained of a severe migraine. He stopped by the Chesterfield Royal Hospital Accident & Emergency Department on his way home, where he was prescribed some paracetamol (acetaminophen) and sent home.

Unfortunately, his condition didn’t improve with medicine and sleep. Amy became worried and called a doctor out to see Mark. The doctor sent him back to the hospital, where tests revealed startling news.

Mark Ellis After His Stroke with his Wife and Baby Girl

“He was sent to Sheffield Hallamshire Hospital on the Wednesday for an MRI scan on Thursday morning, which showed the stroke had happened on the Tuesday,” Amy recalls.

“It was just so hard to take in – we had been married two months and Lola-Rose was just two weeks old when the stroke happened.” Amy said. “It was a dream turned into a nightmare. He’s young and healthy, who’s never smoked, taken drugs, or drunk excessively, so it was hard to understand why and how this happened.”

Baby Teaches Locked-In Dad After Stroke

Mark was induced into a coma, and when he woke up a week later he could only communicate by rolling his eyes up for “yes” and down for “no.” Test results showed that Mark had suffered a blood clot in his brain stem–the worst the doctors had seen in a young man.

Amy gave up her job as a hairdresser to stay home and care for her husband and daughter. What she witnessed was nothing short of amazing. As Lola-Rose began to babble and make noises, Mark copied her sounds, at the suggestion of his therapist.

Locked-In Syndrome Mark Ellis with Wife and Baby

According to Amy, “He started to make the same sounds, and then the words came too.”

Mark and Lola-Rose began to read books together and used speech apps on the iPhone and iPad. By playing games with his daughter, Mark improved his coordination. Despite the odds, Mark eventually would walk again.

Mark Ellis Locked in Stroke - Then and Now

“There wasn’t much time between him and Lola-Rose both taking their first steps – I think Mark took his first steps a week or two after Lola,” said Amy. “It’s amazing that they have learned to do things together and now Mark can talk and walk with the use of a frame.”

With the help of his daughter, now age 2, Mark continues to make progress every day, using her toys to play and learn.

Dad with Locked-In Syndrome Learns from His Toddler


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Botulinum Toxin Stops Multiople Sclerosis Tremors

Multiple Sclerosis Tremors Reduced by Botox Injections

Many people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, or MS, will develop a tremor in the arms and hands as the disease progresses. Until recently, the tremors were a symptom of MS that doctors could do little to treat. According to a recent study published in Neurology, botulinum toxin, best known as Botox, may provide the tremor relief many are seeking.

The author of the study was Anneke van der Walt, MD, of the Royal Melbourne Hospital and research fellow of the University of Melbourne in Australia. According to van der Welt, “treatments in use for tremor in MS are not sufficiently effective and new alternatives are needed.”

Botox is well-known for its ability to correct wrinkles and other signs of aging, but the drug is also approved by the FDA for use in treating crossed eyes, muscle spasms, excessive sweating, migraines, and issues with bladder control related to MS.

Multiple Sclerosis Botox Injections Stop Tremors

The tremors found in MS patients are caused by the destruction of myelin in the nerves that are responsible for voluntary movement. In the study, 23 people with MS tremors were given either injections of botulinum toxin or injections of placebo in their affected arm for three months. After the three months, they were given the opposite treatment for three additional months.

Scientists studied their ability to write and draw before, during, and after the treatments were given. Tremor severity was measured and video assessments were taken every six weeks. The study concluded that there was a significant improvement at six weeks and three months after the botulinum toxin treatment.

Tremor severity improved by two points on a 10-point scale, which is the difference between a moderate tremor and a mild tremor. The ability to write and draw improved about one point on a 10-point scale.

Botulinum Toxin Reduces Multiple Sclerosis MS Tremors

“Our study suggests a new way to approach arm tremor related to MS where there are currently major treatment challenges, and it also sets the framework for larger studies,” said van der Walt.

The only side effect reported was muscle weakness, which developed in about 42% of the people after the Botox injections were given. The muscle weakness generally improved within two weeks and was mild. The next step is a larger study, which will likely focus on the muscle weakness to see if it becomes a larger problem down the road.

Gayatri Devi, MD, a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, is not too worried about the muscle weakness and sees promise in the study’s results.

“I think it is a grand idea,” she says of the use of Botox. As for the muscle weakness, “the tremor is so disabling and crippling that it’s a little bit of trade-off.”


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Tyler Armstrong Hiking to Cure Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Boy Summits Kilimanjaro to Cure Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Tyler Armstrong, an 8-year-old boy from Yorba Linda, California, became the second youngest person to reach the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Tyler and his team climbed from June 25th through July 2nd, not for the fame of completing the task at such a young age, but instead to raise awareness and funds for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

Tyler Armstrong Hiked Kilimanjaro for Duchenne Friends

“I did it! I climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro for my friends Hawken, Suhail, and Wil and the other boys with Duchenne who can’t climb,” exclaimed Tyler.

Duchenne impacts 300,000 boys worldwide, and the disease is the most common and lethal form of muscular dystrophy. Most boys with Duchenne are diagnosed by age 5, are using a wheelchair by age 12, and the vast majority do not survive pas their mid-20s.

Tyler Armstrong and Cure Duchenne Team

Tyler and his team, CureDuchenne’s Hawken’s Heroes, summitted at 3:30am on July 1st. Tyler needed a little help with the last 1,000 feet due to the altitude, but he made it to the top.

“It was cool to be on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro,” he said. “It would be even cooler if they could find a cure for Duchenne. We need everyone’s help to find a cure. CureDuchenne needs money to help save boys’ lives.”

Tyler Armstrong and Team Summit Kilimanjaro for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

“It was amazing to reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro led by a courageous young boy with a big heart,” said Paul Miller, co-founder of CureDuchenne, who climbed alongside Tyler. “Tyler helped us reach new heights on the mountain just as we are reaching new heights in the research to find a cure for Duchenne.”

Tyler Armstrong Hiking Kilmanjaro to Cure Duchenne

CureDuchenne is a non-profit that funds research into treatments and cures for Duchenne. The climb was coordinated through Climb to CureDuchenne, and the funds will be used to support the most promising research projects that aim to treat and cure Duchenne. Tyler is hoping to raise $19,341, which is a dollar for every foot he climbed.

Tyler Armstrong with Cure Duchenne Kilimanjaro Team


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Sell Your Van - AMS Buys Wheelchair Vans

Sell Your Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

No doubt your used handicap van has made a dramatic and positive difference in your life, but now, for whatever reason, it’s time to pass it along to a new owner. Sure, you can take the time and effort involved to sell it yourself, but why go through the hassle when you can sell your wheelchair van directly to AMS Vans? We’ll even pick it up at your location nationwide. What could be easier than that?

AMS Vans wants to buy YOUR used handicap accessible vehicle—whether it’s a full-size van, minivan, car, truck, SUV, or any other wheelchair vehicle professionally modified with a ramp or lift for wheelchairs and mobility scooters. It has to be in good working condition. We accept all brands of used vehicles, including Braun, VMI, Rollx, AMS, and others. Besides the fact that AMS vans picks up the vehicle, you’re probably wondering what other advantages there are to sell your handicap vehicle to us. Well…

For starters, AMS Vans offers great prices—some of the highest in the industry, and you’ll surely appreciate the quick cash you’ll get to put down on a new vehicle or take that vacation you’ve put off for a while. The process is beyond smooth—you can either call us at 877-621-4029 to get the process started, or go to our Sell a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle web page, fill out the form, and wait for an AMS Vans mobility consultant to give you a call. It won’t be long at all. After discussing the details and an inspection of your vehicle, the deal’s done. You get the cash, and AMS Vans will soon get your life-changing, accessible wheelchair vehicle into the waiting hands of another family.

And there’s more! If, for some reason, we don’t purchase your vehicle, AMS Vans has you covered with our online mobility classifieds on our web site. All previous AMS Vans customers get their first month of advertising free. Post an ad or let us do the selling for you on consignment.

We know your used handicap accessible van has become a trusted, old friend, and AMS Vans would like to become a trusted, new friend who makes parting with your old friend as pleasant as possible.

AMS Vans in Bike MS: Cox Atlanta Ride 2012

AMS Vans Rides for Multiple Sclerosis in Bike MS: Cox Atlanta Ride

What could be better than a late-summer bicycle ride through the awe-inspiring Appalachian Mountains in Georgia, where fresh, fall air is beginning to make its way to the coast? Easy! It’s that same bike ride, along with the knowledge that you’re benefiting people living with multiple sclerosis and their families!

This weekend, September 15-16, two members of the AMS Vans team will be among the hundreds of cyclists riding Georgia’s back roads and byways to benefit the Georgia Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“To create a world free of MS,” the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and its local chapters work for the prevention, treatment, and cure of MS. The organization also assists people living with the disease and their families, while advocating for relevant federal legislation.

The 26th Annual Bike MS: Cox Atlanta Ride begins and finishes at Callaway Gardens, a spectacular resort in the breathtaking Appalachian Mountains. Cyclists must raise at least $250 to participate, and they have their choice of 35-mile, 65-mile, and 100-mile routes.

Dallas Crum, general manager at AMS Vans, and mobility consultant JP Jackson have their fundraising behind them and are ready to take on some serious terrain with the Shepherd Center and Mobility Works team. Fortunately, bikes that go uphill get to come downhill.

They’re both really stoked about the weekend. Dallas says, “This is the perfect time of year for cycling in Georgia’s mountains. And knowing that every hill we climb does some good for multiple sclerosis research or someone living with MS makes it even more worthwhile.”

JP feels the same way. “Some of the folks we help by participating in this ride are our customers, so we gladly take on the challenge. A cure for MS may result in losing some of our customer base, and we’re absolutely fine with that.”

Both men are old hands at supporting causes through a variety of benefit events that let them test their athletic prowess, and there’s no indication they’re going to stop anytime soon. Thanks, guys, and good luck!

Visit for more information.

Bike MS: Cox Atlanta Ride for Multiple Sclerosis

MIT Glucose Implantable Fuel Cell

Future Brain Implants for Paralysis Patients Could Run on Sugar

Glucose is the sugar that powers human cells, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers have developed a fuel cell that runs on the same sugar. The glucose fuel cell has potential to be used to drive brain implants in the future, which may be able to provide paralyzed patients with the ability to move their arms and legs again.

According to the study, the fuel cell strips electrons from glucose molecules and creates a small electric current. The researchers were able to fabricate the fuel cell on a silicon chip, which allows it to integrate with other circuits that would be required for a brain implant. Rahul Sarpeshkar, the associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, led the research team.

Glucose Model for Implantable Fuel Cell

The idea of glucose fuel cells first came about in the 1970s, when scientists showed how to power a pacemaker with a glucose fuel cell. The idea was abandoned in favor of lithium-ion batteries, as they were significantly more powerful. The glucose fuel cells also utilized enzymes that eventually ceased to function efficiently, making them useless for long-term implants.

What is different about the MIT glucose fuel cell is that it is made from silicon, using the same technology that semiconductor electronic chips require. There are no biological components, and the MIT glucose fuel cell can generate up to hundreds of microwatts, which is enough to power an ultra-low-power, and thus clinically useful, neural implant.

Paralysis Brain Implant Glucose Fuel Cell

“It will be a few more years into the future before you see people with spinal-cord injuries receive such implantable systems in the context of standard medical care, but those are the sorts of devices you could envision powering from a glucose-based fuel cell,” says Benjamin Rapoport, a former graduate student in the Sarpeshkar lab and the first author on the new MIT study.

According to Rapoport’s theory, the glucose fuel cell should be able to get all of the sugar it needs from the protective cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, found around the brain. Because the CSF has very few naturally occurring cells, it’s unlikely that an implant placed in this area would cause an immune response. There is a substantial amount of glucose in the CSF, and the body does not typically use the glucose found there. Because the glucose fuel cell would use only a small percentage of the available power, the implant would have little impact on the brain.

MIT Glucose Fuel Cell Implant

“It’s a proof of concept that they can generate enough power to meet the requirements,” said Karim Oweiss, an associate professor of electrical engineering, computer science and neuroscience at Michigan State University, adding that the next step will be to demonstrate that it can work in a living animal.

Brain-machine interfaces have already proven to be somewhat successful. At Brown University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and other institutions, researchers have demonstrated that paralyzed patients could use the interface to move a robotic arm. The implants used for that research must be plugged into a wall, however, while the glucose fuel cell might eliminate the need for an external power source in the future.


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Saskatchewan Mennonite Horse and Buggy

Parkinson’s Disease Gene Found by Studying Saskatchewan Mennonite Family

A team of international scientists from the University of Saskatchewan-Saskatoon Health Region and University of British Columbia, led by genetics profession Matthew Farrer, identified an abnormal gene which leads to Parkinson’s disease, thanks in large part to the help of one extended Saskatchewan Mennonite family.

The abnormal gene is a mutated version of a gene called DNAJC13, which was identified by UBC medical genetics professor Matt Farrer, who led the study. Thirteen of 57 members of one extended family in the study had been previously diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Three additional cases from Saskatchewan and one family from British Columbia all were found to have the same mutation. All of the people with the mutation were of Mennonite background, a Christian group linked to Dutch-German-Russian ancestry.

Saskatchewan Parkinsons Researcher Matthew Farrer

“This discovery paves the way for further research to determine the nature of brain abnormalities which this gene defect produces,” says Farrer’s research collaborator, Dr. Ali Rajput. “It also promises to help us find ways to detect Parkinson’s disease early, and to develop drugs which will one day halt the progression of the disease.”

Rajput is a leader in Parkinson’s research and has been working with the main family from the USB study since 1983. Rajput and his son, Alex Rajput, who is also a neurologist, have been collaborating with Farrer for quite some time. The research for the study drew on four decades of research and work the Rajputs have completed.

Saskatchewan Parkinsons Researchers Ali Rajput and Alex Rajput

The key contribution in the findings, which were presented to more than 5,000 delegates at the 16th International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders in Dublin, Ireland, was the Rajputs’ collection of more than 500 brains and nearly 2,200 blood samples from Parkinson’s patients.

Farrer, who holds the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Neurogenetics and Translational Neuroscience, explained that confirming the gene’s linkage with Parkinson’s disease required thousands of DNA samples from patients with the disease and healthy individuals. The contributions of the Saskatchewan Mennonite family were critical in the research.

Saskatchewan Mennonite Family Help Parkinsons Research

“A breakthrough like this would not be possible without their involvement and support. They gave up considerable time, contributed clinical information, donated blood samples, participated in PET imaging studies, and — on more than one occasion following the death of a family member — donated brain samples,” says Farrer.

“The whole-hearted and unselfish commitment of this family is remarkable,” Rajput says. “They went out of their way in every conceivable manner to help solve this mystery. We, on behalf of all the Parkinson’s disease patients in this province, Canada, and around the world, are grateful to them for making this discovery possible.”

Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, with estimates around one million people in North America and four million people worldwide being affected by it, and most cases occurring over the age of 50. Environmental toxins, such as pesticides and herbicides, have been consistently shown to be a major factor in contracting the disease.


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