Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Smoke-free laws linked to a rapid decrease in hospitalizations and heart attack deaths

Smoke-free legislation was associated with substantially fewer hospitalizations and deaths from heart and respiratory diseases, according to research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Researchers reviewed 45 studies covering 33 smoke-free laws at the local and state levels around the United States and from countries as varied as Uruguay, New Zealand and Germany and found:
  • Comprehensive smoke-free laws were associated with a rapid 15 percent decrease in heart attack hospitalizations and 16 percent decrease in stroke hospitalizations. 
  • Smoke-free laws were also rapidly followed by a 24 percent decrease in hospitalizations for respiratory diseases, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • The most comprehensive laws — those covering workplaces, restaurants and bars — resulted in the highest health benefits.
"The public, health professionals and policy makers need to understand that including exemptions and loopholes in legislation – such as exempting casinos – condemns more people to end up in emergency rooms," said Stanton Glantz, Ph.D., senior study author and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco. "These unnecessary hospitalizations are the real cost of failing to enact comprehensive smoke-free legislation."

The findings support the American Heart Association's position that smoke-free laws should be comprehensive and apply to all workplaces and public environments, including restaurants, bars and casinos. The analysis also is consistent with other studies that have found smoke-free laws were followed by significant decreases in acute heart attack and other cardiac-related hospital admissions.

"Stronger legislation means immediate reductions in secondhand smoke-related health problems as a byproduct of reductions in secondhand smoke exposure and increases in smoking cessation that accompany these laws," Glantz said. "Passage of these laws formalize and accelerate social change and the associated immediate health benefits."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Report: Pollution critical threat on par with malaria, TB

A new report released today by New York-based Blacksmith Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to cleaning up life-threatening pollution, and Green Cross Switzerland calculates, for the first time, the global health impact of pollution across 49 countries, giving the broadest picture of pollution’s toll to date. The 2012 report The World’s Worst Pollution Problems reveals that the health impact of pollution is the same or higher than some of the most dangerous diseases worldwide, threatening millions of lives. It is similar in scope to better-known problems such as malaria and tuberculosis. The report also identifies the top ten toxic industries responsible (see list below), and offers workable solutions.

“The report underscores the need to fully recognize the health impacts caused by toxic pollution at this critical juncture. Life-threatening pollution is likely to increase as the global economy exerts an ever-increasing pressure on industry to meet growing demands. The damage will be greatest in many low and middle-income countries, where industrial pollution prevention regulations and measures have not kept pace,” says Richard Fuller, President, Blacksmith Institute.

“Even though it puts nearly 125 million people at risk, pollution remains one of the most under-recognized global problems. Appropriately, large amounts of time and resources are devoted to addressing the burden of diseases like tuberculosis and malaria. The striking fact is that international and local government action on these diseases greatly outpaces the attention given to toxic sites, which, as demonstrated in this report, contribute greatly to the global burden of disease,” says Dr. Stephan Robinson, Unit Manager (Waste, legacy), Green Cross Switzerland.

The 2012 World’s Worst Pollution Problems Report is the latest in a series of pollution reports released annually since 2006 that document the state of the world’s worst polluted places and pollution problems. The reports have been instrumental in increasing public understanding of the health impacts posed by toxic pollution, and in some cases, have compelled cleanup work at pollution hotspots. These reports have been issued jointly by Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross Switzerland since 2007. All released reports are available for download at

Snapshot of industrial pollution in 49 countries, plus solutions

This year’s report identifies those pollutants commonly found in industrial processes, whose health impacts are quantifiable, and traces their industry uses and health risks. It goes on to list the top ten polluting sources/industries and offer solutions, highlighting opportunities to implement life-saving cleanup and pollution prevention efforts.

Most importantly, the new report attempts to quantify the true extent of pollution’s threat by measuring the global health impacts of contaminated sites across 49 low and middle-income countries. This is the first time such a calculation has been made to measure pollution’s toll on lives over such a wide area. The previous report began the effort by calculating the disease burden of individual contaminated sites.

Calculating Pollution’s Toll in 17 Million DALYs

The impact of pollution is measured in Disability Adjusted Life Years, or DALYs, which capture the total number of life years lost from early death as well as any reduction in quality of life resulting from disease.

DALYs allow for comparisons to be drawn between different types of public health risks, taking into account both the severity and duration of a given disease. Chronic headaches for example are given a lower value in the DALY metric than more severe health outcomes such as blindness or cancer.

The report found that the public health impact of industrial pollutants, measured in DALYs, is the same or higher than some of the most dangerous diseases worldwide. The report finds that exposure to contaminants at hazardous waste sites across the 49 countries analyzed results in more than 17 million DALYs. By comparison malaria results in some 14 million DALYs in the countries reviewed while tuberculosis results in some 25 million DALYs. These numbers are by no means conclusive but can be taken as indicative of the potential scale of the problem.

The 2012 report was generated out of analysis of on the ground data collected by Blacksmith Institute’s Toxic Sites Identification Program over the past three years during site assessments at thousands of toxic hotspots in low- and middle-income countries. The impact estimates are based on the body of research that the field studies provided. This, in combination with toxicological information provided by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other public health leaders, enabled the Blacksmith Institute to quantify the most severe and widespread pollution problems.
Top Ten Toxic Industries Listed by DALY (Disability Adjusted Life Year) 

  1. Lead-Acid Battery Recycling - 4,800,000
  2. Lead Smelting - 2,600,000
  3. Mining and Ore Processing - 2,521,600
  4. Tannery Operations - 1,930,000
  5. Industrial/Municipal Dump Sites - 1,234,000
  6. Industrial Estates - 1,060,000
  7. Artisanal Gold Mining - 1,021,000
  8. Product Manufacturing - 786,000
  9. Chemical Manufacturing - 765,000
  10. Dye Industry - 430,000

Monday, October 29, 2012

Elevated levels of formaldehyde, flame retardants, pesticides and perfluorinated compounds found in California day care centers

A new, comprehensive survey of day care centers by University of California, Berkeley, researchers found that, overall, the environmental quality in child care settings was similar to other indoor environments, but that levels of formaldehyde and several other contaminants exceeded state health guidelines. Cleaning- and sanitizing-related chemicals were also present in the air, and sometimes at higher levels, than in comparable studies on homes.

The study, funded by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), is the first detailed analysis of environmental contaminants and exposures for California day care centers. It covered 40 early childhood education facilities in Alameda and Monterey counties. Researchers found that 35 of the centers, or 87.5 percent, had levels of formaldehyde greater than 9 micrograms per cubic meters over eight hours, which is above California’s guideline for safe exposure.

Formaldehyde, a known respiratory irritant and a listed carcinogen under California’s Proposition 65, “The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986,” is commonly found in the glues used in pressboard furniture and laminated wood. It is also in many paint, clothing and cosmetic products, and is emitted from combustion sources such as wood burning and gas stoves.

“Children are more vulnerable to the health effects of environmental contaminants, and many small children spend as much as 10 hours per day, five days a week, in child care centers,” said study lead author Asa Bradman, associate director of the UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH). “We wanted to establish the baseline levels of environmental exposures in these early child care settings, and to provide information that could be used for any necessary policy changes.”

The 40 centers in the study were located in a mix of urban, rural and agricultural areas, and served a total of 1,764 children. The researchers collected air and floor dust samples when the children were present and tested for a broad array of chemicals. Particles in the air were also measured, including ultrafine particles, which are extremely small and can be inhaled deeply into lungs.

The California Air Resources Board has been developing and implementing regulatory programs to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds from consumer products used in homes and institutions. In 2008, under its Toxic Air Contaminants Program, the board implemented new rules to reduce formaldehyde emissions from building materials and furniture made from pressed wood, the biggest source of formaldehyde in indoor air.

Although furnishings and building materials that emit formaldehyde can still be sold in California until the regulation is fully implemented, there are many new pressed wood products on the market that emit little or no formaldehyde. These low emitting products are labeled as CARB Phase 2 (P2). Composite woods products labeled as Ultra Low Emitting Formaldehyde (ULEF) or No Added Formaldehyde (NAF) have the lowest emissions profiles.

Formaldehyde can also form when chemicals from cleaners and sanitizers, such as d-limonene, react with ozone and other compounds in the air. D-limonene is extracted from citrus peels to give cleansers, perfumes and other products a lemon-orange scent.

Ensuring proper ventilation can help reduce contaminant levels, the study authors said.

“These findings show that cleaning and sanitizing products impact air quality in child care settings,” said Victoria Leonard, a scientist at UC San Francisco’s Institute for Health and Aging who is leading a program to promote healthier product choices in child care, and who was not involved in data analysis for this study. ”Given that many young children have asthma or other respiratory problems, this study offers strong evidence to select safer cleaning products that have less volatile chemicals.”

In some centers, levels of ultrafine particles increased by up to a thousandfold when cooking appliances were turned on. However, while ultrafine particles have been associated with serious health impacts, their health effects are not well understood, and there are no guidelines for safe levels. And since formaldehyde can also be emitted from gas stoves, the study authors advised using a range hood and fan when cooking to reduce particle and formaldehyde levels.

The researchers also detected other chemicals, including phthalates (found in plastics), flame retardants, pesticides and perfluorinated compounds (found in Teflon and stain resistant carpets).

“For most of those chemicals, however, there has not been adequate toxicity testing, so we cannot evaluate the health risks,” said Bradman.

“This study reinforces the need for child care providers to remain alert to environmental concerns,” said Hester Paul, director of the EcoHealthy Child Care program for the Children’s Environmental Health Network in Washington, D.C.

“It is important to identify areas where improvement is needed, and this study has done that,” added Paul, who is not affiliated with this study. “Fortunately, many local, state and non-profit agencies are working to give child care providers the tools they need to address environmental concerns.”

Other study authors are Fraser Gaspar, Rosemary Castorina, Elodie Tong-Lin and Thomas McKone at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, and Randy Maddalena at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Combat Winter Allergies

Spring and summer are not the only seasons that bring misery to those with allergies. The winter months can be brutal for people sensitive to mold spores and dust mites.

Dr. William Reisacher, director of The Allergy Center in the Department of Otolaryngology (head and neck surgery) at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, says, "During the winter, families spend more time indoors, exposing allergic individuals to allergens and irritants like dust mites, pet dander, smoke, household sprays and chemicals, and gas fumes -- any of which can make their lives miserable."

Dr. Rachel Miller, director of allergy and immunology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, adds, "Mold spores can cause additional problems compared to pollen allergy because mold grows anywhere and needs little more than moisture and oxygen to thrive. During the holiday season it is especially important to make sure that Christmas trees and holiday decorations are mold-free."

Source: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

American Academy of Pediatrics Weighs In on Organic Foods for Children

AAP report cites lower pesticides in organic produce and potentially lower risk of exposure to drug-resistant bacteria, but says the most important thing for children is to eat a wide variety of produce, whether it’s conventional or organic.

Parents know it’s important for children to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains. But it’s less clear whether spending the extra money on organic foods will bring a significant benefit to their children’s health.
To offer guidance to parents – and the pediatricians caring for their children’s health – the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has conducted an extensive analysis of scientific evidence surrounding organic produce, dairy products and meat. The conclusion is mixed: While organic foods have the same vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, lipids and other nutrients as conventional foods, they also have lower pesticide levels, which may be significant for children. Organically raised animals are also less likely to be contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria because organic farming rules prohibit the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics.
However, in the long term, there is currently no direct evidence that consuming an organic diet leads to improved health or lower risk of disease. However, no large studies in humans have been performed that specifically address this issue.
“What’s most important is that children eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products, whether those are conventional or organic foods. This type of diet has proven health benefits,” said Janet Silverstein, MD, FAAP, a member of the AAP Committee on Nutrition and one of the lead authors of the report. “Many families have a limited food budget, and we do not want families to choose to consume smaller amounts of more expensive organic foods and thus reduce their overall intake of healthy foods like produce.”
The AAP report, “Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages,” will be released at a news conference at 1 p.m. CT Monday, Oct. 22 at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans. It will be published in the November 2012 issue of Pediatrics.
The report outlines the research that has been conducted on organic foods, including convincing evidence of lower exposure to pesticides and less contamination of livestock with drug-resistant bacteria.
“At this point, we simply do not have the scientific evidence to know whether the difference in pesticide levels will impact a person’s health over a lifetime, though we do know that children – especially young children whose brains are developing – are uniquely vulnerable to chemical exposures,” said Joel Forman, MD, FAAP, a member of the AAP Council on Environmental Health and one of the lead authors of the AAP clinical report.
If cost is a factor, families can be selective in choosing organic foods, Dr. Forman said. Some conventionally grown fruits and vegetables tend to have lower pesticide residues. The AAP cites organic shopper’s guides like those provided by Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group as references for consumers.
The AAP found no individual health benefit from purchasing organic milk, but emphasizes that all milk should be pasteurized to reduce the risk of bacterial infections. Raw milk increases the risk of serious infection with bacteria including Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter and Brucella. 
Purchasing meat from organic farms that do not use antibiotics for nontherapeutic uses has the potential to reduce antibiotic resistance in bacteria that infect people. The AAP calls for large, well-designed, prospective cohort studies that directly measure environmental exposures such as estrogen at low levels to understand the impact of hormonal exposure of children through milk and meat.
The AAP report also notes that the motivation to choose organic produce, meat and dairy products may be reasonably based on larger environmental issues, as well as human health impacts like pollution and global climate change.
“Pediatricians want families to have the information they need to make wise food choices,” said Dr. Forman. “We hope that additional research will improve our understanding of these issues, including large studies that measure environmental exposures and neurodevelopment.” 
Concerned about chemical exposure? Indoor air pollution contains both chemical and particle pollutants. Look into an air purifier with activated carbon plus HEPA filtration.

Source: AAP Press Release

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Poorer Lung Health Leads to Age-Related Changes in Brain Function

Keeping the lungs healthy could be an important way to retain thinking functions that relate to problem-solving and processing speed in one’s later years, new research suggests.

While these two types of “fluid” cognitive functions were influenced by reduced pulmonary function, a drop in lung health did not appear to impair memory or lead to any significant loss of stored knowledge, the study showed.

Researchers used data from a Swedish study of aging that tracked participants’ health measures for almost two decades. An analysis of the data with statistical models designed to show the patterns of change over time determined that reduced pulmonary function can lead to cognitive losses, but problems with cognition do not affect lung health.

“The logical conclusion from this is that anything you could do to maintain lung function should be of benefit to fluid cognitive performance as well,” said Charles Emery, professor of psychology at Ohio State University and lead author of the study. “Maintaining an exercise routine and stopping smoking would be two primary methods. Nutritional factors and minimizing environmental exposure to pollutants also come into play.”

Emery said the analysis also offers insights into the process of human aging. While one theory of aging holds that all functions that slow down do so at the same rate, this study suggests that some aspects of functional decline contribute to a change in the rate of other areas of decline.

“In this case, pulmonary functioning may be contributing to other aspects of functioning,” he said. “It starts to speak to the bigger question: What are the processes involved in aging?”

The study is published in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science.

The study sample consisted of 832 participants between ages 50 and 85 who were assessed in up to seven waves of testing across 19 years as part of the Swedish Adoption/Twin Study of Aging. Emery and colleagues used data from pulmonary and cognitive tests conducted in the Swedish study.

Lung function was measured in two ways: forced expiratory volume, or how much air a person can push out of the lungs in one second, and forced vital capacity, the volume of air that is blown out after a deep inhalation.

The Swedish participants also were tested in four cognitive domains that measured verbal abilities associated with stored knowledge, memory, spatial abilities related to problem-solving and processing speed – which included the ability to write correct responses quickly.

The researchers entered the data into structural equation models that allow for interaction between the components being compared – in this case, lung function and cognitive function – as well as the trajectory of the changes over time. These dual-change-score models can be likened to a horse race, Emery said.

“We were looking for effects in both directions. We had previously looked in simpler models and found that pulmonary function did predict cognitive function, but there are some studies that show the opposite direction. It was important for us to go into this with an open mind and use this modeling to test both directions,” he said.

This kind of statistical analysis did not quantify the effects, but showed clear trends between a decline in lung function and steeper losses in the two types of “fluid” cognitive function. A small effect was seen on verbal tasks, as well. Pulmonary function change had no influence on memory performance.
The study also showed that changes in cognitive function did not predict lung outcomes.

“In these models the relationship is consistently moving from pulmonary function to cognitive function and not the other way,” said Emery, also a professor of internal medicine and an investigator in Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.

The declines seen in this study are expected with age, he noted. And the elements of cognitive function that were not influenced by lung function – memory and retrieval of stored knowledge – are not typically associated with normal aging.

“We know, for example, that the speed at which people can perform the processing task does decline with age. But now we have data that suggests pulmonary function actually predicts that decline,” he said.
Though this study does not explain what a loss of pulmonary function does to the brain, the researchers speculated that reduced lung health could lower the availability of oxygen in the blood that could in turn affect chemicals that transmit signals between brain cells.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Video Clip: Pregnant women have numerous chemicals in their blood

A sobering clip on the amount of chemicals found in the bodies of pregnant women:

One of the main routes of chemical exposure is inhalation. If your indoor air cleaner only removes dust than your are not protected against airborne chemicals. For more information on activated carbon + HEPA filtration connect with us via live chat on or on twitter @allerair.

Monday, October 22, 2012

People With Allergies May Have Lower Risk of Brain Tumors
New research adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that there’s a link between allergies and reduced risk of a serious type of cancer that starts in the brain. This study suggests the reduced risk is stronger among women than men, although men with certain allergy profiles also have a lower tumor risk.

The study also strengthens scientists’ belief that something about having allergies or a related factor lowers the risk for this cancer. Because these tumors, called glioma, have the potential to suppress the immune system to allow them to grow, researchers have never been sure whether allergies reduce cancer risk or if, before diagnosis, these tumors interfere with the hypersensitive immune response to allergens.

Scientists conducting this study were able to analyze stored blood samples that were taken from patients decades before they were diagnosed with glioma. Men and women whose blood samples contained allergy-related antibodies had an almost 50 percent lower risk of developing glioma 20 years later compared to people without signs of allergies.

“This is our most important finding,” said Judith Schwartzbaum, associate professor in the College of Public Health’s Division of Epidemiology at Ohio State University and lead author of the study. “The longer before glioma diagnosis that the effect of allergies is present, the less likely it is that the tumor is suppressing allergies. Seeing this association so long before tumor diagnosis suggests that antibodies or some aspect of allergy is reducing tumor risk.

“It could be that in allergic people, higher levels of circulating antibodies may stimulate the immune system, and that could lower the risk of glioma,” said Schwartzbaum, also an investigator in Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Absence of allergy is the strongest risk factor identified so far for this brain tumor, and there is still more to understand about how this association works.”

Many previous studies of the link between allergies and brain tumor risk have been based on self-reports of allergy history from patients diagnosed with glioma. No previous studies have had access to blood samples collected longer than 20 years before tumor diagnosis.

The current study also suggested that women whose blood samples tested positive for specific allergy antibodies had at least a 50 percent lower risk for the most serious and common type of these tumors, called glioblastoma. This effect for specific antibodies was not seen in men. However, men who tested positive for both specific antibodies and antibodies of unknown function had a 20 percent lower risk of this tumor than did men who tested negative.

Glioblastomas constitute up to 60 percent of adult tumors starting in the brain in the United States, affecting an estimated 3 in 100,000 people. Patients who undergo surgery, radiation and chemotherapy survive, on average, for about one year, with fewer than a quarter of patients surviving up to two years and fewer than 10 percent surviving up to five years.

The study is published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Schwartzbaum and colleagues were granted access to specimens from the Janus Serum Bank in Norway. The bank contains samples collected from citizens during their annual medical evaluations or from volunteer blood donors for the last 40 years. Norway also has registered all new cases of cancer in the country since 1953, and personal identification numbers enable cross-referencing those cases with previously collected blood samples.

The researchers analyzed stored samples from 594 people who were diagnosed with glioma (including 374 diagnosed with glioblastoma) between 1974 and 2007. They matched these samples for date of blood collection, age and sex with 1,177 samples from people who were not diagnosed with glioma for comparison.

The researchers measured the blood samples for levels of two types of proteins called IgE, or immunoglobulin E. This is a class of antibodies produced by white blood cells that mediate immune responses to allergens. Two classes of IgE participate in the allergic response: allergen-specific IgE, which recognizes specific components of an allergen, and total IgE, which recognizes these components but also includes antibodies with unknown functions.

In each sample, the scientists determined whether the serum contained elevated levels of IgE specific to the most common allergens in Norway as well as total IgE. The specific respiratory allergens included dust mites; tree pollen and plants; cat, dog and horse dander; and mold.

The researchers then conducted a statistical analysis to estimate the association between elevated concentrations of allergen-specific IgE and total IgE and the risk of developing glioma.

Among women, testing positive for elevated levels of allergen-specific IgE was associated with a 54 percent decreased risk of glioblastoma compared to women who tested negative for allergen-specific IgE. The researchers did not see this association in men.

“The longer before glioma diagnosis that the effect of allergies is present, the less likely it is that the tumor is suppressing allergies.”

However, the relation between total IgE levels and glioma risk was not different for men and women, statistically speaking. For men and women combined, testing positive for elevated total IgE was linked to a 25 percent decreased risk of glioma compared with testing negative for total IgE.

The analysis for effects on glioblastoma risk alone suggested a similar decreased risk for both men and women combined whose samples tested positive for high levels of IgE, but the findings were considered borderline in terms of statistical significance, meaning the association could also be attributed to chance.

“There is definitely a difference in the effect of allergen-specific IgE between men and women. And even results for total IgE suggest there still may be a difference between the sexes. The reason for this difference is unknown,” Schwartzbaum said.
What the study does provide evidence for, however, is the likelihood that the immune systems of people with respiratory allergies could have a protective effect against this type of brain cancer. The ability to investigate this association over four decades between blood sampling and tumor diagnosis gave the researchers better insight into the relationship between allergies and tumor risk, Schwartzbaum said.

For example, a positive test for elevated concentrations of total IgE was associated with a 46 percent decreased risk for developing a glioma 20 years later compared to samples testing negative for elevated IgE, according to the analysis. That decreased risk was only about 25 percent in samples that tested positive for high levels of total IgE taken two to 15 years prior to diagnosis.

“There may be a trend - the closer the samples get to the time of diagnosis, the less help the IgE is in decreasing the risk for glioma. However, if the tumor were suppressing allergy, we would expect to see a bigger difference in risk near the time of diagnosis,” Schwartzbaum said.

Schwartzbaum plans to further analyze the serum samples for concentration of cytokines, which are chemical messengers that promote or suppress inflammation as part of the immune response, to see if these proteins have a role in the relationship between elevated IgE levels and lowered tumor risk.

Cleaner indoor air reduces the risk of respiratory irritation. AllerAir air purifiers for allergies and asthma remove 99.97% of common airborne allergens as well as chemicals and odors. Connect with us to learn more or on twitter @allerair. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hay Fever, Asthma Combination Linked to Lower Risk for Death From Colorectal Cancer

People who suffer the double whammy of having both asthma and hay fever -- have a 17 percent lower risk for dying from colorectal cancer, according to a new study.

“Having both of these conditions could indicate that you are more likely to develop allergy-related immune responses that lower your risk for developing fatal colorectal cancer,” said Eric Jacobs, Ph.D., strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology at the American Cancer Society.

People with only allergies or only asthma had little reduction in risk for fatal colorectal cancer.

Jacobs and colleagues believe that the lower risk for fatal colorectal cancer among people with both hay fever and asthma may be a result of atopy, which is the general predisposition to develop allergic responses, including those that cause allergies and asthma. According to Jacobs, it is possible that individuals with atopy may sometimes mount an allergic-like response against colon cancer cells as well.

Future research could evaluate whether an association exists between other measures of atopy, such as blood levels of the immunoglobulin E antibody, and risk for developing or dying from colorectal cancer. If such an association is found, there could be implications for development of vaccines to stimulate anticancer immune responses in patients with colorectal cancer.

“If allergy-related immune responses are lowering colorectal cancer mortality in some individuals, that would imply that a similar kind of response might be inducible by a vaccine,” Jacobs said.


Cleaner indoor air reduces the risk of respiratory irritation. AllerAir air purifiers for allergies and asthma remove 99.97% of common airborne allergens as well as chemicals and odors. Connect with us to learn more or on twitter @allerair.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Students use kites to measure air pollution in Beijing

An ancient Chinese kite-flying tradition has become a new citizen tool for monitoring air quality in the skies over Beijing. The project, a joint effort between a Chinese graduate student and U.S. graduate student, was first inspired by controversy regarding China's air pollution statistics.

The "Float Beijing" project's kites carry air pollution sensors as well as colorful LED lights that show the level of air quality — green for good, yellow for moderate, red for unhealthy and pink for severely unhealthy. Since raising more than $5,000 in funding on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, the project has held its first Beijing workshops in August and appeared at New York City's Maker Faire in September.

"The sensors were pretty easy to mount to the kites," said Deren Guler, a master's candidate in tangible interaction design at Carnegie Mellon University. "The kites' flyers helped us with that and we were able to find the best place after a few tests."

Ordinary Chinese have suffered from smog and bad air quality because of China's rapid industrialization — a problem that the Chinese government has tried to tackle during high-profile events such as the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. But the issue turned politically hot this year when Chinese citizens noticed the big difference between the U.S. embassy's air pollution readings (publicized through Twitter) and the sunnier reports issued by the Chinese government.

Guler worked with Xiaowei Wang, a master's candidate in landscape architecture at Harvard University, to develop the kite solution in the wake of Chinese citizens demanding more detail from the official Chinese air pollution readings. Their Float Beijing project ended up marrying ancient Chinese tradition with modern technology.

Wang talked with kite flyers at a local Beijing park who recommended a master kite maker in a nearby kite market. The kite maker and his wife were "very enthusiastic" about the project, and helped the Chinese and American graduate students refine their kite design.

"They gave us some of their own kite-light decorations to help experiment with and offered to sell our modules," Guler told TechNewsDaily.

The first Beijing workshops taught Chinese citizens how to attach the air pollution sensors and lights to the kites. Such kites are able to not only detect and display general levels of carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds, but also collect the data and store it for later.

Float Beijing aims to eventually create an online interactive display of the air pollution results collected by the kites, as well as a book about the project. The project founders also left some of their open-source kite modules in Beijing so that Chinese citizens could begin sharing the design on Weibo, China's version of Twitter.

 Source: TechNewsDaily

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bacterial Protein in House Dust Spurs Asthma, Allergies

A bacterial protein in common house dust may worsen allergic responses to indoor allergens, according to research conducted by the National Institutes of Health and Duke University. The finding is the first to document the presence of the protein flagellin in house dust, bolstering the link between allergic asthma and the environment.

Scientists from the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and Duke University Medical Center published their findings in people and mice in the journal Nature Medicine.

“Most people with asthma have allergic asthma, resulting largely from allergic responses to inhaled substances,” said the paper’s corresponding author Donald Cook, Ph.D., an NIEHS scientist. His research team began the study to identify environmental factors that amplify the allergic responses. “Although flagellin is not an allergen, it can boost allergic responses to true allergens.”

After inhaling house dust, mice that were able to respond to flagellin displayed all of the common symptoms of allergic asthma, including more mucous production, airway obstruction, and airway inflammation. However, mice lacking a gene that detects the presence of flagellin had reduced levels of these symptoms.

“More work will be required to confirm our conclusions, but it’s possible that cleaning can reduce the amount of house dust in general, and flagellated bacteria in particular, to reduce the incidence of allergic asthma,” Cook said.

In addition to the mouse study, the research team also determined that people with asthma have higher levels of antibodies against flagellin in their blood than do non-asthmatic subjects, which provides more evidence of a link between environmental factors and allergic asthma in humans.

“More than 20 million Americans have asthma, with 4,000 deaths from the disease occurring each year,” added Darryl Zeldin, M.D., NIEHS scientific director and paper co-author. “All of these data suggest that flagellin in common house dust can promote allergic asthma by priming allergic responses to common indoor allergens.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

There may be an upside to allergies and asthma; protection against skin cancer

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have discovered a molecule involved in asthma and allergies that seems to make mice resistant to skin cancer.

The molecule, called TSLP (thymic stromal lymphopoietin), is produced by damaged skin and activates the immune system. Chronic low levels of TSLP are suspected in making the immune system oversensitive to what should be a harmless environment, leading to the skin rashes and overproduction of mucus common in allergies and asthma.

“But at extremely high levels, TSLP appears to train the immune system to recognize skin cancer cells, and target those cells for elimination,” says Raphael Kopan, PhD, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Professor of Developmental Biology. “These experiments demonstrate that there is a way for a natural molecule to help immune cells recognize and reject tumors, at least in the skin.”

The study appears online Oct 15 in Cancer Cell.

These findings are surprising because most current evidence suggests that the allergic inflammation and release of TSLP increases — not decreases — the risk of tumor development.

The disparity may be explained by the amount of TSLP that is produced. The mice that were resistant to skin tumor growth had blood levels of TSLP that were 1,000-fold higher than normal. And levels in the skin — where it is made — may be even higher.

“This is an example of where hyper-vigilance of the immune system may end up paying dividends,” Kopan says. “Not only does it respond aggressively to an innocuous allergen, but it begins to monitor, survey and destroy cells that are mutant.”

The results are supported by another study in the same issue of Cancer Cell also showing TSLP prevents skin cancer in mice.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Genetic error linked to rare disease that causes chronic respiratory infections

Scanning the DNA of two people with a rare disease has led scientists to identify the precise genetic error responsible for their disorder, primary ciliary dyskinesia.

The condition affects the tiny hair-like structures, called cilia, that extend from various cells in the body, and causes a range of symptoms: persistent lung, sinus and ear infections, male infertility, and sometimes a reversed orientation of major organs in the body.

The new discovery, by a team at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is reported online in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

The research highlights the potential for using DNA sequencing technology to quickly identify genes responsible for rare diseases, an approach that likely will improve diagnosis.

“Primary ciliary dyskinesia is difficult to diagnose,” says senior author Thomas Ferkol, MD, director of the division of allergy, immunology and pulmonary medicine and a pediatric specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Because it is inherited, we should be able to diagnose the disease using genetic tests, so we can identify and treat affected children earlier and hopefully avoid the most severe chronic infections.”

The researchers found the error in a gene, HEATR2, which had never been linked to primary ciliary dyskinesia or to cilia. It brings the number of genes associated with the disorder to 15, but they are still thought to account for fewer than half of all cases of the disorder.

Ferkol, along with first author Amjad Horani, MD, a fellow in pediatric pulmonology, identified the mutation by sequencing the genes from two people with primary ciliary dyskinesia and, as a comparison, the genes from both sets of their parents, who did not have the disease. The family members came from two related Amish families that now live in Missouri, Arkansas and Wisconsin. Nine of them have the disorder, and the researchers can now attribute their cases to the HEATR2 mutation.

About 1 in every 20,000 babies is born with primary ciliary dyskinesia. Because the disease is rare and symptoms like chronic respiratory and sinus infections don’t always raise a red flag, making a diagnosis can be difficult.

Typically, newborns with the disorder have respiratory distress shortly after birth and may need the help of a ventilator to breathe. As they grow, the children develop persistent cough. Runny or stuffy noses and respiratory infections are common year round.

The wide-ranging symptoms can be traced to defects in cilia that sit atop cells lining the respiratory tract, from the nose to the airsacs of the lungs. Cilia normally beat rapidly – roughly 10 times a second – to clear inhaled pollutants and bacteria from the lungs, nose and middle ear.

Early in development, cilia also move fluid across the embryo’s surface and detect signals that indicate where the heart, lungs, spleen and other internal organs should be placed. Sperm sport similar structures, called flagella, that propels their movement.

But in patients with primary ciliary dyskinesia, the cilia don’t beat effectively if at all. In many patients, the cilia clearly look defective under an electron microscope. However, cilia can appear normal in some patients. The newly identified mutation in HEATR2 changes the structure of cilia and affects the microscopic motors that power them to beat.

“In these patients, the cilia motors are not assembled properly, and they just sputter,” Ferkol says. “Without the motor, cilia don’t beat.”

In the lab, the researchers confirmed their discovery by silencing the HEATR2 gene in normal, healthy cells that line the respiratory tract and in a simple model system, a single-celled green algae called Chlamydomonas. This caused the same defect in the motors that the scientists observed in the family members with primary ciliary dyskinesia.

While the new discovery will help scientists unravel the disparate genetic origins of primary ciliary dyskinesia, it also could help them identify biological similarities between this rare disease and more common ailments.
“Many young children without primary ciliary dyskinesia experience chronic or repeated sinus or ear infections,” Ferkol explains. “It is possible that a more subtle error in one or more genes linked to this rare disorder may be at the root of these common conditions.”

The research is an unusual collaboration that brought together Washington University physicians and scientists in diverse fields. Ferkol and Horani, both pediatric pulmonologists, teamed with Steven Brody, MD, a specialist in pulmonary medicine, Susan Dutcher, PhD, a geneticist who studies green algae, and Philip Bayly, PhD, an engineer who investigates the mechanics of beating cilia. Funding for the project came from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Children’s Discovery Institute, a partnership between St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

“Ultimately, we want to identify all the mutations responsible for primary ciliary dyskinesia,” Ferkol says. “In our dreams, we hope that one day we can correct ciliary defects that lead to respiratory disease. But in the short term, a more complete understanding of the genetics of primary ciliary dyskinesia will be a huge step forward toward improving diagnosis and allow us to better connect particular mutations with specific symptoms.”

Friday, October 12, 2012

Can your taste buds determine your ability to fight off chronic sinusitis and other upper respiratory ailments?

A new study has revealed that a person’s ability to taste certain bitter flavors is directly related to their ability to fight off upper respiratory tract infections, specifically chronic sinus infections.

Most humans experience five types of tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and savory. The sense of taste is mediated by taste receptor cells which are bundled in our taste buds. “Sour” and “bitter” taste sensations alert the body to harmful foods that have spoiled or are toxic. But based on genetics, up to 25 percent of the population cannot detect certain bitter flavors (non-tasters), 25 percent can detect exceedingly small quantities (super-tasters), and the rest of us fall somewhere between these two extremes.

Recent investigations have shown that these taste receptors (T2Rs) are also found in both upper and lower human respiratory tissue, likely signaling a connection between activation of bitter tastes and the need to launch an immune response in these areas when they are exposed to potentially harmful bacteria and viruses.

“With this information in mind, we wanted to better understand the exact role that bitter taste receptors play in the upper airway, especially between these super and non-tasters,” says Noam Cohen, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery, staff physician at the Philadelphia VAMC, and senior author of the new study.

Cohen and his colleagues formulated the following hypotheses around the connection: (1) bitter taste receptors are functional in the nose (upper respiratory tract), and each receptor detects a specific type of bacteria; (2) upon activation by a specific bacterial product, the bitter taste receptor initiates a local defensive response to combat the attacking bacteria; and (3) genetic variability of the bitter taste receptors alters the vigorousness of the response, thus leaving certain individuals with very strong defenses and others with weak defenses against a specific bacteria.

To test these hypotheses, the team grew cell cultures from sinus and nasal tissue samples collected during sinus surgical procedures. These cultures develop cilia, produce mucus, and reflect many of the defensive workings found inside the nose and sinuses.

They found that one of the bitter taste receptors that functions in upper airway cells, known as T2R38, acts as a type of “security guard” for the upper airway by detecting molecules that a certain class of bacteria secretes. “These molecules instruct other bacteria to form a biofilm, which helps harbor the bacteria. From previous work, we know that these biofilms spur the immune system to mount an over-exuberant inflammatory response that can lead to sinusitis symptoms. When the T2R38 receptor detects these molecules, it activates local defensive maneuvers to increase mucus clearance and kill the invading bacteria. It’s really like modern warfare – intercept the enemies’ early communications to thwart their plans and win the battle,” Cohen said, who is also the director of the Rhinology Research Lab at Penn.

Through the cultures, the research team demonstrated that super-tasters detect very small concentrations of the offending molecules, while non-tasters and the middle-ground individuals require 100 times more of the molecule for detection. The research team also examined the patients that the original sinus tissue samples were collected from. They found that none of the super tasters were infected with the specific type of bacteria that are detected by the T2R38 receptor, known as a gram-negative bacteria.

“Based on these findings, we believe that other bitter taste receptors in the airway perform the same “guard duty” function for early detection of attack by different types of bacteria, and we hope to translate these findings into personalized diagnostics for patients with chronic rhinosinusitis,” Cohen says.

The research team is also using the results of the current study to develop a simple “taste-test” protocol to be conducted during clinic visits. “We’re optimistic that a test of this nature will help us predict who is at risk to develop biofilms based on their ability to taste various bitter compounds. Additionally, we are looking at therapeutic outcomes, both surgical and medical, based on the taster/non-taster genetic status to determine whether knowing this status will stratify patients to either surgical or medical interventions.”

The new research is published in the latest edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pesticides a key contributor to childhood diseases and disorders

Learning disabilities, childhood cancer and asthma are on the rise in the United States. And a new report points to pesticides – with over 1 billion pounds applied on farms and homes annually – as a critical contributor to these health harms in children.

"Protecting our children from harm is the fundamental duty of parenthood, but how can we do this when developmental toxicants are allowed to freely circulate in our economy?" says Sandra Steingraber, ecologist and acclaimed author. "PAN's report shines a light on a completely preventable tragedy - that an entire generation of children will not reach its full potential. As such, it describes a violation of human rights and a crisis of family life both. For the healthy development of children to become a national priority, we parents must walk ourselves into the political arena and, waving this good report, speak truth to power."

In particular, the report points to the fact that children are sicker today than a generation ago, confronting serious health challenges from pesticides and other chemical exposures that their parents and grandparents were unlikely to face.

Health professionals, mothers and rural leaders across the country released the new report, which draws from academic and government research, to chronicle the emerging threat of pesticides to children’s health. Compiled by researchers and scientists at Pesticide Action Network, A Generation in Jeopardy: How pesticides are undermining our children’s health and intelligence focuses on studies published within the past five years – a growing body of evidence that convincingly demonstrates a link between pesticide exposure and childhood health harms.

“Pesticides can have unique and profound impacts on the developing child, even in very small amounts. The research shows that prenatal exposure to pesticides, in combination with other environmental and genetic factors, can contribute to increased risk of adverse health consequences, such as effects on the developing brain” said Dr. Tracey Woodruff, Director, Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, University of California San Francisco, “We must take swift action to reduce exposure to harmful environmental chemicals to ensure healthier generations”
The report shines a light on the growing links between exposure to pesticides where children, live, learn and play and an array of impacts on the mind and body – including diminished IQ, ADHD & autism, childhood cancers and asthma. In particular, the report points to the following trends across studies:
  • The brains and nervous systems of boys are significantly more affected than girls.
  • Timing of exposure is critically important. If a child is exposed to even very small amounts of a harmful pesticide during a particular moment of development, the impacts can be severe – and often irreversible.
  • Studies link exposure to pesticides during pregnancy to increased risk of childhood leukemia and brain cancer. And children who live in intensively agricultural areas are more likely to have childhood cancer.
The report outlines a series of urgent recommendations for state and federal policymakers to better protect children’s health and intelligence, recommendations emphasized by organizations on Tuesday.
“Enough scientific evidence is in – we can’t fail our children. While individual household choices can help, protecting kids from the health harms of pesticides requires real and swift policy change,” said Emily Marquez, PhD, report co-author and staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network. “Dramatically reducing pesticide use, starting with those most hazardous to children, is the best way to protect current and future generations.”

The report points to the need for the following reforms to reduce pesticide use:
  • Create stronger policy tools so enforcement agencies can take swift action to pull existing pesticides off the market and block new pesticides when independent studies suggest they are harmful to children.
  • Increase investment and support for innovative farmers as they transition away from pesticide use.
  • Set and track national pesticide use reduction goals, focusing first on those pesticides that studies show are harmful to children.
  • Withdraw harmful pesticide products from use in homes, daycare centers and schools.
  • Establish pesticide-free zones around schools, daycare centers and neighborhoods in agricultural areas to protect children from harmful exposures, especially pesticide drift.
The report highlights states and communities across the country where innovative policies have been put in place to protect children from pesticides where they live, learn and play. From pesticide-free playing fields in Connecticut to protective buffer zones for schools and neighborhoods in California’s central valley and organic school lunch programs in Minnesota, policies designed to keep children out of harm’s way are gaining momentum.

The report was released today in ten cities across the country, including Bakersfield, Des Moines, Fresno, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Sacramento, Salinas, San Francisco, Stockton, and Ventura.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Allergy News: The fall sneezing capitals of the U.S. : Louisville, Wichita, Knoxville, Jackson, McAkllen...

Fall is a time to enjoy beautiful colors and autumn weather outdoors. But for 40 million Americans with seasonal allergies, this time of year brings an unwelcome harvest: trillions of pollen particles traveling through the air right into your eyes, nose and mouth. Allergic rhinitis – also called nasal allergies, seasonal allergies or hay fever – is among the most common chronic diseases for children and adults, affecting more than 12 percent of the U.S. population.
The primary fall allergy trigger – ragweed pollen – causes itchy runny nose, nasal congestion, repeated sneezing, watery eyes, inflamed sinuses and, in severe cases, difficulty breathing. It can be more problematic if you also have asthma.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) recently announced its 2012 Fall Allergy Capitals™ ranking, and Louisville, Kentucky, tops the list as “the most challenging place to live with fall allergies.” The annual report names 100 U.S. cities based on an analysis of three factors including pollen, allergy medications usage and the number of allergists per patient. See the full list at

The Top 5 Fall Allergy Capitals this year are:

1. Louisville, KY
2. Wichita, KS
3. Knoxville, TN
4. Jackson, MS
5. McAllen, TX

“Everyone seems to be feeling allergies these days and fall is the most common allergy season after spring,” says Dr. Beth Corn, a Board Certified Allergist in New York City and a member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “No matter if it’s men, women or children, in the city, suburbs or the country, allergies don’t discriminate,” says Corn.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Could installing a satellite dish expose you to asbestos?

When a technician comes to install a new satellite dish the last thing most of us think to ask is whether he's trained to recognize asbestos.

In Australia, thousands of home owners are now awaiting the results of a study launched by the government after it was revealed inadequately trained contractors had dislodged asbestos in more than 20 government-owned houses. They also reviewed 1,733 private homes where the satellite dishes had been installed.

Asbestos was frequently used in home construction in some areas until the 1990's. It has been been deemed a carcinogenic substance by most major health agencies. If the fibrous material is disturbed, tiny particles can become airborne and can be inhaled.

Asbestos exposure has been linked to lung cancer, and other respiratory illnesses.

Source: :The Australian

Monday, October 08, 2012

Fast food and excessive hygene blamed for allergy increase in Europe

Paediatricians at Vienna's Medical University have raised the alarm about an increase of a third in the number of child allergy sufferers - blaming fast food and excessive hygiene.

The experts say that the allergies are a growing problem for children and even food allergies are on the increase, as well as the more common allergies such as asthma, eczema and hay fever.

They estimate that one in every five children in Europe now suffers from an allergy and it's getting worse.

Professor Dr Zsolt Szepfalusi says one possible cause is that people are deciding far too early on to have a clean and hygienic life.

"The so-called hygiene hypothesis is that a certain amount of dirt is healthy and tends to protect one from allergies."

But the medics also say that current diet may also be to blame.

"We have much more pasteurised and cooked food stuffs. This fast food industry didn't exist 20 years ago on such a scale and that has certainly had a strong influence on our digestive process - and in particular in the development of allergies."

He added that parents who believe that children have an allergy should get medical advice as soon as possible because early treatment means a better chance of an effective treatment.

Source: The Australian Independent

Friday, October 05, 2012

Indoor Air Quality FAQ’s: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Among the most serious concerns in indoor air quality are Volatile Organic Compounds. VOCs are emitted as vapours from thousands of household products. According to studies by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOC levels are much higher in indoor air than outdoor air regardless of whether homes are located in rural, urban or industrial areas. An air purifier for VOCs uses an adsorbent to clean the air and is very different from a standard HEPA air purifier.

What products emit VOCs?
Organic chemicals are used widely in household products and release vapours while they are being used, and also while being stored. Cleaning supplies, air fresheners, paints and varnishes contain organic chemicals, as do many other products like building materials, furniture, office equipment and even dry-cleaned clothing. Due to the constant release of VOC’s in indoor air, an air purifier designed to remove chemicals and odors should be left on continuously on low speed. Turning off the air purifier could lead to a build-up of pollutants.

What are the health effects?
Many organic compounds have been directly linked to cancer in animal studies and are known or suspected human carcinogens. While individual VOCs have been tested, very little is known about the combined effects of the numerous products we use every day. Immediate short-term health effects include eye irritation, breathing problems, headaches, dizziness, nausea and problems with concentration and memory. 

How does an air purifier for VOC’s work? 
A good quality air purifier designed for chemicals and odors is a specialized product that is usually sold through a dealer and is rarely found in your local “mart” or hardware store. It uses a completely different filtration system than a cheaper air purifier for dust. That’s because standard HEPA air purifier filters can’t trap chemical vapours. The most effective filtration method for chemicals is deep-bed activated carbon. This heavy air purifier filter (usually 18 lbs. and over) is packed with highly porous granules that attract and trap chemicals, gases and odors. An activated carbon air purifier is considered so effective that they are widely used by the military and heavy industry for some of the world’s most toxic chemicals and odors. Some types of carbon air purifier filters are better suited for different chemicals. An expert air purifier manufacturer like AllerAir can recommend one of 40 blends to best deal with the chemicals in your indoor air.

Other Steps to Reduce Exposure
Along with an air purifier for chemicals and odors, there are some other simple steps to reduce VOC exposure:

·         When using chemical products, try to open windows to increase ventilation
·         Buy products in very small qualities that can be used-up quickly
·         Purchase new products that contain low or no VOCs
·         Avoid storing cleaners, paint cans, and varnishes in areas attached to the home

Learn More
For more information on VOCs, indoor air and which air purifier is right for you call an AllerAir Air Quality Expert at 1-888-852-8247 or chat live at