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Gloria Ramirez
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    (January 11, 1963-February 19, 1994)
    Resident of Riverside, California
    Suffered cervical cancer, kidney failure and a urinary tract blockage
    When she was treated at the emergency room of Riverside General Hospital, nearly two dozen staffers became ill and six had to be hospitalized
    Dubbed the 'toxic lady' in press reports
    Emergency room patients had to be evacuated to the hospital parking lot.
    The state Department of Health and Human Services suggested the outbreak was a case of mass hysteria, noting that women had suffered more severe symptoms than men.
    One of the victims, Dr. Julie Gorchynski, was hospitalized in intensive care for two weeks with respiratory problems, and developed hepatitis and necrosis in her knees. (That's some hysteria.)
    Scientists at Livermore Labs suggested that Ramirez had used the solvent DMSO as a home pain remedy and that a reaction converted DMSO into dimethyl sulfate, a poisonous gas that is volatile enough to evaporate by the time the investigations had begun.
    The Livermore scientists admitted to not knowing any reaction that would convert DMSO to dimethyl sulfate.
    She had to buried in an airtight casket.
    Blood samples taken from affected emergency room staffers were normal, a hazmat team failed to detect any dangerous chemicals in the ER and the coroner's office failed to find any toxins in Ramirez's remains.
    Her family challenged the DMSO conclusion and tried to have an independent autopsy performed.
    The new autopsy was unable to come to a conclusion because the internal organs had been cross-contaminated during the original investigation.
    Her family held a yard sale to pay for her funeral.

Credit: C. Fishel

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