Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Thank-you to all our clients, reps and suppliers! Best wishes for the holiday season!

As this year is quickly winding to a close, our team at AllerAir and Electrocorp would like to take a moment to say thank-you for your role in our continued success.

We wish you a memorable holiday season and a happy 2014.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Greek economic crisis leads to air pollution increase as people turn to cheaper fuel sources

A new study has revealed that Greece's economic woes have had a spin-off effect on air quality.

The research, led by Constantinos Sioutas of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, show that the concentration of fine airbrone particulate has jumped 30 percent in the hardest his region of Greece.

"People need to stay warm...economic hardship has compelled residents to burn low quality fuel, such as wood and waste materials, that pollutes the air," says Sioutas

The choice may have serious long-term health effects. These fine particles – measuring less than 2.5 microns in diameter (approximately 1/30th the diameter of a human hair) – are especially dangerous as they are known to lodge deep into the tissue of lungs.

Unemployment in Greece climbed above 27 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, heating oil prices have nearly tripled. Many residents have turned to wood, even trash as a fuel source.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Community and health leaders demand clean air in St. Louis; Utility may face leagl action after decades of coal pollution

An environmental group says it plans to sue Missouri utility provider Ameren, over repeated violations of federal clean air act.

The Sierra Club says that the Ameren Corporation has racked up nearly 10,000 violations of the Clean Air Act since 2008 at coal-fired power plants in St. Louis, Jefferson and Franklin counties.

In an ironic twist the company's own data may be it's downfall in the case. Ameren reports data from its coal plants’ monitoring systems quarterly to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In an effort to investigate and protect Missouri’s air, the Sierra Club requested the data from Missouri DNR, which revealed egregious violations of the Clean Air Act by exceeding the opacity limits allowed in Ameren’s permit on thousands of occasions between 2008 and 2013.

“Particle pollution can get deep down into lungs and cause respiratory and pulmonary problems,” said Dr. William Kincaid, MD, MPH, former Director of Health for the City of St. Louis and current Chairman of the St. Louis Regional Asthma Consortium. Opacity is one way of measuring particle pollution. "Ameren’s own data shows that it recorded close to 10,000 opacity violations, which means that St. Louis communities are repeatedly exposed to unlawful amounts of dangerous pollution."

Ameren’s Meramec coal plant emits sits just a mile down the road from an elementary schools.

“We can’t allow our children to be exposed to this dangerous coal pollution anymore," said Karl Frank, Jr., St. Louis County Father and former Mehlville School Board member. "It is time for Ameren to start investing in more clean energy like wind and solar so we can halt the consequences of coal pollution on our children.”

Research by the Clean Air Task Force has shown that pollution from Ameren’s Labadie coal plant in Franklin County, Meramec coal plant in St. Louis County and Rush Island coal plant in Jefferson County contribute to 3,870 asthma attacks, 360 heart attacks and 226 premature deaths every year.

The Ameren Corporation (NYSE: AEE) is a Fortune 500 company with assets of $23 billion. It serves 2.4 million electric customers and more than 900,000 natural gas customers in Illinois and Missouri.



For more stories on health, pollution, chemical exposure and improving your indoor air quality visit www.allerair.com or call to speak to an air quality expert about improving the air in your home 1-888-852-8247.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Live in a port community? The EPA wants you to breathe cleaner air

Photo: Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

Most of America's busiest shipping ports are located near large metropolitan areas. That may be ideal for the transport business, but it's generally bad for area residents.

Transport means diesel pollution, which is linked to a range of serious health problems including asthma, lung and heart disease and even premature death. That's why the EPA says they've put aside four million dollars in grant money to reduce diesel emissions from marine and inland water ports.

The agency says the main problem is older diesel engines that emit large amounts of air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides (NOX) and particulate matter (PM). They hope the grants for "clean diesel projects" will make immediate emissions reductions and provide health benefits.

“Ports are essential to the nation’s economy and transportation infrastructure, but they also are home to some of the nation’s toughest environmental challenges,” said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “These grants will help port authorities to provide immediate emissions reductions that will benefit those who work and live in port-side communities.”

This grant competition is available under the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) Program and is the first grant competition to focus on solely reducing emissions at ports. Projects may include a wide range of port-polluting equipment including drayage trucks, marine engines, locomotives, and cargo handling equipment. The EPA says priority will be given to ports located in areas of poor air quality.

What do you think? Do these projects make a difference?


Not willing to wait for government to reduce pollution in your neighborhood? Clean your indoor air with a high quality HEPA and activated carbon air purifier. Connect with us to learn more www.allerair.com.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

COPD Linked to Cognitive Impairment, Memory Loss

A study by the Mayo Clinic has found that people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are about twice as likely to develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI) -- and chances are that it will include memory loss.

Researchers looked at about 2,000 people 70-89 years old in the Mayo Clinic Study on Aging. About 1,600 were cognitively normal, 317 had mild cognitive impairment and overall, about 288 had COPD. COPD was found to be associated with almost two-fold higher odds of MCI, and the odds get worse the longer someone has COPD. Rates were similar among men and women.

“COPD is reversible in early stages, especially in smokers,”  says study author Dr. Balwinder Singh. “These findings are important because they highlight the importance of COPD as a potential risk factor for MCI and will hopefully lead to early intervention to prevent incidence or progression.”

MCI is a stage between normal cognitive aging and dementia. People with mild cognitive impairment are at increased risk of progressing to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

COPD refers to a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make breathing difficult. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two most common conditions that make up COPD. Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs. Emphysema occurs when the air sacs (alveoli) at the end of the smallest air passages (bronchioles) in the lungs are gradually destroyed.

Indoor air pollution can exacerbate COPD symptoms. Find out why our users with COPD appreciate our medical-grade HEPA air purifiers with activated carbon. Connect with us at www.allerair.com or call to speak with an air quality expert at 1-888-852-8247.

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Researchers say personal care products expose kids to harmful parabens

Researchers are warning that lotions, shampoos and other personal care products (PCPs), are likely exposing infants and toddlers to potentially harmful substances, called parabens, at an even higher level than adult women.

Parabens have been linked to reproductive and other health issues and are used in a wide range of products, from medical devices to children's toys, as well as personal care products.

Most people are exposed to them every day — for example, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that more than 90 percent of the population is exposed to these substances. The body breaks them down quickly, but both have been detected in urine, breast milk and blood. Research has suggested a link between these substances and health issues in animals and people, such as sperm damage, breast cancer and an increased risk for asthma.

For their study researchers, Kurunthachalam Kannan and Ying Guo collected 170 samples of makeup, lotions, shampoos and other products, including 20 items for babies, and tested them for nine phthalates and six parabens. Both substances were found in the PCPs. In baby products, phthalate concentrations were low, but parabens were common. When the researchers calculated possible exposure levels, they estimated that the potential daily skin exposure to parabens by infants and toddlers could be as much as two to three times higher than that for adult women.

They published their findings in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

In previous studies, Kannan and Guo's team also discovered that indoor dust contributed to phthalate exposure. To reduce poor indoor air, be sure to increase ventilation and use a good quality HEPA air filter. AllerAir air purifiers remove 99.97% of airborne dust, particles and the chemicals and odors that other air cleaners leave behind. Connect with us to learn more about the importance of clean indoor air www.alleriar.com.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Air pollution and genetics combine to increase risk for autism

Exposure to air pollution appears to increase the risk for autism among people who carry a genetic disposition for the neurodevelopmental disorder, according to newly published research led by scientists at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“Our research shows that children with both the risk genotype and exposure to high air pollutant levels were at increased risk of autism spectrum disorder compared to those without the risk genotype and lower air pollution exposure,” said the study’s first author, Heather E. Volk, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of research in preventive medicine and pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and principal investigator at The Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disability characterized by problems with social interaction, communication and repetitive behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 88 children in the United States has an ASD.

ASD is highly heritable, suggesting that genetics are an important contributing factor, but many questions about its causes remain. There currently is no cure for the disorder.

“Although gene-environment interactions are widely believed to contribute to autism risk, this is the first demonstration of a specific interaction between a well-established genetic risk factor and an environmental factor that independently contribute to autism risk,” said Daniel B. Campbell, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and the behavioral sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the study’s senior author. “The MET gene variant has been associated with autism in multiple studies, controls expression of MET protein in both the brain and the immune system, and predicts altered brain structure and function. It will be important to replicate this finding and to determine the mechanisms by which these genetic and environmental factors interact to increase the risk for autism.”

Independent studies by Volk and Campbell have previously reported associations between autism and air pollution exposure and between autism and a variant in the MET gene. The current study suggests that air pollution exposure and the genetic variant interact to augment the risk of ASD.

Campbell and Volk’s team studied 408 children between 2 and 5 years of age from the Childhood Autism Risks From Genetics and the Environment Study, a population-based, case-control study of preschool children from California. Of those, 252 met the criteria for autism or autism spectrum disorder. Air pollution exposure was determined based on the past residences of the children and their mothers, local traffic-related sources, and regional air quality measures. MET genotype was determined through blood sampling.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Database Tracks Toxic Side Effects of Pharmaceuticals

Judging by the list of off side effects on most pharmaceutical TV commercials, one would guess the cure may often be as bad as the disease.

That's why researchers from North Carolina State University have published an update to an extensive toxicology database -- so that it can be used to track information about drugs and their unintentional toxic effects.

“Environmental science actually shares a common goal with drug makers: to improve the prediction of chemical toxicity,” says Dr. Allan Peter Davis, lead author of a paper on the work and the biocuration project manager of the Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD) in NC State’s Department of Biological Sciences.

The scientific literature contains vast information about the adverse effects of therapeutic drugs. But collecting, organizing and making sense of that information is a daunting task. NC State’s CTD team, which historically focused on environmental chemicals, - read and coded more than 88,000 scientific papers as part of the update.

The results include more than 250,000 statements collected from seven decades’ worth of scientific articles. Putting the data into the CTD framework helps investigators develop and test hypotheses about how drugs might cause adverse events.

“Coding the information in a structured format was key,” insists Davis. “This allowed it to be combined with other data to make novel predictions.” For example, the drug bortezomib is used to treat certain types of cancer, but it also causes unintended nerve damage in some patients. By linking the data, CTD was able to connect the dots and find genes that that may be key to connecting the drug and the possibility of nerve damage.

“Investigators can now test and validate which genes might be critical to the drug-induced event,” explains Davis. “This could be useful in gene-testing patients to tailor the correct medicine or it could help design future therapeutics by alerting safety researchers to avoid those pathways and potential toxic outcomes.”

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Save on AllerAir replacement filters! #BlackFriday


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Thursday, November 28, 2013

China destroying barbecues in a desperate drive to reduce pollution

In a country that boasts 40,000 factories, it's hard to comprehend how barbecues have become the target of China's desperate anti-pollution campaign.

Authorities in Beijing have reportedly destroyed more than 500 open-air barbecues. Officials claim it's to cut "PM2.5” - tiny airborne particulate matter that can enter deep into the lungs.

Photos carried by state media show workers cutting-up the pieces of metal as city supervisors looked on.
According to reports, citizens are ridiculing the exercise, suggesting authorities should perhaps focus on bigger sources of pollution instead.

The offending grills were confiscated over a three-month period and cut up so they couldn’t be used again.

Source: The Toronto Star
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Got migraines and allergies? Your headaches are likely worse than fellow migraine sufferers

People with migraine who also battle allergies and hay fever (rhinitis) endure a more severe form of headaches than their peers who struggle with migraine, according to researchers from the University of Cincinnati (UC), Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University and Vedanta Research.

About 12 percent of the U.S. population experiences migraine, which is three times more common in women than men. Allergies and hay fever—also known as allergic rhinitis—are quite common as well, affecting anywhere from a quarter to half of the U.S. population. They produce symptoms such as a stuffy and runny nose, post nasal drip and itching of the nose.

The study is one of the first tying the relationship of rhinitis—irritation and inflammation of the nasal mucus membrane caused by allergic and non-allergic triggers—to the frequency of migraine headaches, says Vincent Martin, MD, professor of medicine in UC’s division of general internal medicine, co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Program at the UC Neuroscience Institute and lead author of the study.

"We are not sure whether the rhinitis causes the increased frequency of headaches or whether the migraine attacks themselves produce symptoms of rhinitis in these patients,” Martin says. "What we can say is if you have these symptoms, you are more likely to have more frequent and disabling headaches.”

The researchers analyzed data from the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) Study. A 2008 questionnaire was filled out by nearly 6,000 AMPP Study respondents from across the country who have experienced migraine. To define rhinitis, participants were asked the question, "Do you suffer from nasal allergies, seasonal allergies or hayfever?”

Rhinitis occurred in two out of three people with migraine in this study. The researcher say that the fact that rhinitis occurred in more than half of these individuals emphasizes that these disorders are intimately linked.

Based on the results, researchers found the odds of experiencing more frequent headaches for individuals with rhinitis and migraine was 33 percent greater than those battling migraines without rhinitis.

"The nose has largely been ignored as an important site involved in the initiation and exacerbation of migraine headache,” says Richard Lipton, MD, professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University and co-director of the Montefiore Headache Center and principal investigator of the study. "If rhinitis exacerbates migraine, as these results suggest, treating rhinitis may provide an important approach to relieving headache in people with both disorders.”


For more stories on health, allergies, pollution and improving your indoor air quality visit www.allerair.com or call to speak to an air quality expert about improving the air in your home 1-888-852-8247.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Industrial air pollution linked to child heart defects

Children’s congenital heart defects may be associated with their mothers’ exposure to specific mixtures of environmental toxins during pregnancy, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2013.

Congenital heart defects occur when the heart or blood vessels near the heart don’t develop normally before birth. Defects may be caused by chromosomal abnormalities, but the cause is unknown in most cases.

Researchers examined patterns of congenital heart defects incidence and presence of environmental toxicants in Alberta, Canada. The ongoing research seeks to determine if pregnant women’s proximity to organic compounds and metals emitted in the air impacts the risk of heart defects in their children.

“Although still in the early stage, this research suggests some chemical emissions — particularly, industrial air emissions — may be linked to heart abnormalities that develop while the heart is forming in the womb,” said lead researcher Deliwe P. Ngwezi, M.D., a Ph.D., student and research fellow in pediatric cardiology at the University of Alberta in Canada.

The study is based on congenital heart defects diagnosed in 2004-11 and chemical emissions recorded by a Canadian agency tracking pollutants.

Researchers looked at three chemical categories, but only one group showed a strong correlation with rates of congenital heart defects. According to Ngwezi, the group of chemicals consists of a mixture of organic compounds and metals namely: benzene, butadiene, carbon disulphide, chloroform, ethylene oxide, hexachlorobenzene, tetrachloroethane, methanol, sulphur dioxide, toluene, lead, mercury and cadmium.

Congenital heart defect rates have gradually decreased in Canada since 2006, which is about the time the government tightened regulations to reduce industrial air emissions, Ngwezi said. The heart defect decreases were mainly associated with heart defects resulting in holes between the upper and lower heart chambers (septal defects) and malformations of the cardiac outflow tracts (conotruncal defects), according to Ngwezi.

“For now, consumers and healthcare providers should be educated about the potential toll of pollutants on the developing heart,” she said. “As we have observed in the preliminary results, when the emissions decrease, the rates of congenital heart defects also decrease.”

This study, she said, should draw attention to the increasing evidence about the impact of environmental pollution on birth defects. Limitations of the study include that researchers’ observations were made at a group level, not according to individual risk and the self-reported industry data which is monitored and collected annually by government, according to Ngwezi.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

PCBs still affecting our health decades later

Although PCBs have been banned in the United States since 1979, University of Montreal and CHU Sainte-Justine researcher Maryse Bouchard has found that higher levels of the toxin was associated with lower cognitive performance in seniors.

There is a significant association between PCB levels and cognitive abilities among individuals aged 70 to 84 years; the correlation was also detected to a lesser extent among people aged 60-69 years. This analysis also showed that the association differed by sex. Women in the older age group had the largest diminution in cognition in relation to exposure. "While most studies have looked at the impact of PCBs on infant development, our research shows that this toxin might affect us throughout our lives," Bouchard said.

The use and production of PCBs have been phased out for over 40 years, but these highly persistent substances are still found in the blood of most individuals, especially older people. 708 Americans participated in Bouchard's study, which involved providing blood samples to determine the levels of toxins in their bodies and completing a memory and motor-skill task to determine their cognitive performance. The PCB levels found in their bodies were representative of those in the general U.S population. "Aging persons could be at particular risk because of higher cumulative exposure built up across a lifetime, susceptibility due to underlying medical conditions, such as vascular disorders, and diminished cognitive reserve capacity," Bouchard said. "Our present findings suggest that PCBs, even at levels generally considered to pose low or no risk, may contribute to cognitive deficits."

PCB disposal processes currently range from effective remediation to deliberate dumping. They accumulate in the lipid tissues of animal and marine life forms, and biomagnify across the food chain. As a result, PCBs are today ubiquitously present in tissues of human populations, in North American and around the world. This study underscores the importance of improving our response to PCBs as a health hazard.

For more stories on health, pollution, chemical exposure and improving your indoor air quality visit or call to speak to an air quality expert about improving the air in your home 1-888-852-8247.

Friday, November 22, 2013

New Study Helps Explain Chronic Ear and Respiratory Infections

Are you or your child plagued with chronic ear infections or respiratory illnesses? A team from the research institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital says they may have some answers. 

The scientists have figured out how a bacterium that causes ear and respiratory illnesses is able to elude immune detection in the middle ear. 

“Infections caused by nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHI) are chronic and recurrent similar to other bacterial infections that are difficult to treat,”  says Dr. Sheryl Justice. “Findings from our studies help to explain reasons for that.”

Humans are the only known hosts for Haemophilus influenzae bacteria, a family comprised of many different strains, the most well-known of which is type b, or Hib. Once the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children under age 5, Hib is largely under control today, thanks to a Hib vaccine that was introduced in 1985. Now, NTHI is responsible for the majority of invasive H. influenzae infections in all age groups.

At any given time, NTHI is present in the nose and mouth in about 50 percent of young children, an environment rich in nutrients such as heme-iron, which all bacteria need to survive. Still, the bacterium leads to few if any serious symptoms when confined to this nasopharynx region. It isn’t until NTHI moves into the lungs and middle ear—where heme-iron is sequestered as part of the body’s immune response—that the bacterium causes the most problems. Therein lay the mystery that the researchers were trying to solve: Why did NTHI have better success in a part of the body that was more hostile to its existence?

“Our data support a paradox, wherein mechanisms that are thought to clear the bacteria at these sites actually may be promoting increased survival of bacteria and contributing to disease severity,” says Dr. Mason. 

The team has received a $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to further their work.

For more stories on health, respiratory care and improving your indoor air quality visit www.allerair.com or call to speak to an air quality expert about improving the air in your home 1-888-852-8247.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Big city pollution tied to dry eye syndrome; Researchers suggest high quality air filters

Residents of major cities with high levels of air pollution have an increased risk of dry eye syndrome, according to a new study.

Study subjects in and around Chicago and New York City were found to be three to four times more likely to be diagnosed with dry eye syndrome compared to less urban areas with relatively little air pollution. As a result of this study, researchers suggest that environmental manipulations should be considered as part of the overall control and management of patients with dry eye syndrome.

Dry eye syndrome, a deficiency in tear production, is a prevalent condition that effects up to four million people age 50 and older in the United States.

The symptoms of dry eye syndrome can be very detrimental to patients and severely affect the quality of one's life, as well as result in loss of productivity due to interruption of daily activities like reading and using computer screens. While it has been suggested that environmental factors impact dry eye syndrome, this is the first study of a large patient population covering the entire continental United States which linked dry eye syndrome treatment location to atmospheric conditions – in particular, air pollution coupled with weather conditions.

"Undoubtedly, many people living in arid and polluted cities would readily attest to the irritating effect air pollution has on dry eye," said Anat Galor, M.D., MPSH, of Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Assistant Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and lead researcher. "Our
research suggests that simple actions, such as maintaining the appropriate humidity indoors and using a high-quality air filter, should be considered as part of the overall management of patients suffering from dry eye syndrome."

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Phthalate exposure linked to preterm birth

The odds of preterm birth for women exposed to a commonly used class of chemicals known as phthalates are increased significantly, according to a new study from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Depending on the individual phthalate, women with the highest levels of exposure during pregnancy had two-to-five times the odds of preterm birth, compared to women with the lowest exposure.

Before interventions can be implemented, however, more must be known about how phthalates interact with pregnancy, their potential association with women delivering early, and where exposures are coming from, the researchers caution.

"Preterm birth is a major public health challenge. Rates are significantly higher than they were 20 years ago and we don't know why. Other interventions have had limited effectiveness, and this helps shed light on a potential for environmental influences," said John Meeker, associate professor of environmental health sciences and associate dean for research at the U-M School of Public Health, who is the principal investigator of the study. "Next, we need to look at how pregnant women are exposed, and at what stage of pregnancy, to help inform exposure and risk prevention strategies."

Phthalates are used to make plastic materials more flexible and as solvents in personal care products such as perfumes, deodorants and lotions. They are found in food, adhesives, vinyl flooring, plastic shower curtains, some medications and more.

Meeker and colleagues studied 482 individuals selected from a larger population of pregnant women who delivered at the Brigham and Women's Hospital from 2006-08. For each woman, phthalate levels were measured in urine samples taken from up to three time points during pregnancy. The 130 mothers who delivered prior to 37 weeks showed significantly higher concentrations of four of nine phthalate metabolites that were measured in the study.

Dr. Thomas McElrath, a physician-scientist and key co-investigator on the study, developed and leads the original cohort study upon which this work is based in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"This is by no means the cause of premature birth, but it is a possible contributor—which is important because it is potentially modifiable," McElrath said. "This finding may be dramatic but women should not be alarmed. This is only the first step in a long research process that will be needed to clarify and confirm these results. It is simply too early to suggest making changes in prenatal care based on this study."

Kelly Ferguson, doctoral student at the U-M School of Public Health and first author of the paper, says the team's research provides the largest study of this relationship to date, and further improves on other studies by using multiple exposure measurements per subject.

"We have some ideas on how phthalates could cause preterm birth, although the exact mechanism is still unknown," she said. "One possibility we are considering is that phthalates are causing changes in oxidative stress or inflammation in the mother, and that these changes are leading to early labor."

The researchers say current studies remain inconclusive in assessing whether avoiding perfume, deodorant and other personal care products, and eating more fresh foods that undergo less processing and packaging, could lower women's phthalate exposure levels.

"Once we know more about pathways of exposure and mechanisms that cause this to happen, then it will be the time for interventions and policy action at the individual, clinical and federal levels," Meeker said. "These are things we are actively researching."

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why you may get an allergy as your holiday gift; especially if you have asthma

Photo: M.Bartosch
When we think of the onset of new allergies we mostly think spring sneezing or fall wheezing, but the winter holidays can also spur new allergies, especially in people with asthma.

“Allergies can strike at any age in life, with symptoms disappearing and resurfacing years later,” says Leonard Bielory, MD and fellow with the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Travel seems to be one of the reasons why people suddenly develop allergies around the holidays. As we visit our friends and relatives we may be exposed to airborne pollutants we're not used to. For example, while visiting a relative with cats, a runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes can occur. Some college students returning home may also be suddenly allergic to a pet they didn’t have a reaction to before.

More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. According to ACAAI, allergies tend to run in families. If both parents have allergies, their children have a 75 percent chance of being allergic. If only one parent is allergic, or if a relative has allergies, the child has a 30 to 40 percent chance of having an allergy.

If you have asthma, it's estimated that 60 to 85 of sufferers will be afflicted with at least one allergy.

“During the holiday season you’re going to be exposed to allergens,” said allergist Dr. Myron Zitt, M.D., past president of the ACAAI. “Be aware of where the problems lie so you can deal with them. And then, have a good time!”

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Researcher links mold to Parkinson's-like symptoms; makes the discovery after her own Katrina clean-up

Joan Bennett
Joan Bennett/Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Scientists at Rutgers and Emory universities have discovered that a compound often emitted by mold may be linked to symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

“Parkinson’s has been linked to exposure to environmental toxins, but the toxins were man-made chemicals,” said researcher Arati Inamdar. “In this paper, we show that biologic compounds have the potential to damage dopamine and cause Parkinson’s symptoms.”

Arati Inamdar and Joan Bennett, researchers in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers, used fruit flies to establish the connection between the compound – popularly known as mushroom alcohol – and the malfunction of two genes involved in the packaging and transport of dopamine, the chemical released by nerve cells to send messages to other nerve cells in the brain.

For co-author Bennett, the research was more than academic. Bennett was working at Tulane University in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005. Her flooded house became infested with molds, which she collected in samples, wearing a mask, gloves and protective gear.

“I felt horrible – headaches, dizziness, nausea,” said Bennett, now a professor of plant pathology and biology at Rutgers. “I knew something about ‘sick building syndrome’ but until then I didn’t believe in it.  I didn’t think it would be possible to breathe in enough mold spores to get sick.” That is when she formed her hypothesis that volatiles might be involved.

Inamdar and Bennett began their study shortly after Bennett arrived at Rutgers. Bennett wanted to understand the connection between molds and symptoms like those she had experienced following Katrina.

The scientists discovered that the volatile organic compound 1-octen-3-ol, otherwise known as mushroom alcohol, can cause movement disorders in flies, similar to those observed in the presence of pesticides, such as paraquat and rotenone. Further, they discovered that it attacked two genes that deal with dopamine, degenerating the neurons and causing the Parkinson’s-like symptoms.

Studies indicate that Parkinson’s disease – a progressive disease of the nervous system marked by tremor, muscular rigidity and slow, imprecise movement -- is increasing in rural areas, where it’s usually attributed to pesticide exposure. But rural environments also have a lot of mold and mushroom exposure.

“Our work suggests that 1-octen-3-ol might also be connected to the disease, particularly for people with a genetic susceptibility to it,” Inamdar said. “We’ve given the epidemiologists some new avenues to explore.”

The findings were published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Inhaled particulate matter linked to kidney damage in 9/11 first responders

For the first time, researchers have linked high levels of inhaled particulate matter by 9/11 first responders to kidney damage.

After the tragedy, workers at Ground Zero were exposed to air filled with cement dust, smoke, glass fibers, and heavy metals. The WTC-CHEST Program at Mount Sinai has previously linked this particulate matter exposure to lung and heart abnormalities. However, its effects on the kidney health of first responders have never been explored until now.

In their new study, Mount Sinai researchers examined urine samples of 183 first responders exposed to particulate matter at Ground Zero taking into account each first responder's time of arrival, proximity, duration, and level of exposure at Ground Zero. To assess their kidney damage, researchers measured the level of the protein called albumin in their urine, which when this main blood protein is found in urine it is abnormal and an indicator of renal damage. Research results show a significant link between a high level of exposure to particulate matter by first responders at Ground Zero and the increased level of the protein albumin in their urine.

"Our study shows the first responders with the highest exposure to the 9/11 particulate matter had significantly greater levels of albumin in their urine than the first responders in the study with low exposure levels," says Mary Ann McLaughlin, MD, principal investigator for the WTC-CHEST Program at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai who also serves as medical director of the Cardiac Health Program and co-director of the Women's Cardiac Assessment and Risk Evaluation Program at The Mount Sinai Hospital. "We believe high exposure to the massive dust cloud of air pollution at Ground Zero may have extremely inflamed the endothelial lining of blood vessels leading to the kidneys causing kidney malfunction and the development of kidney damage in first responders."

Albumin may leak into the urine when kidney function is compromised from inflammation or kidney damage. When albumin starts to spill incorrectly into the urine it is called "albuminuria". A high-level of albuminuria can signal kidney disease from diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure, and kidney inflammation. Standard medical assessments test for albuminuria to catch kidney disease early. When kidney disease progresses, it can lead to kidney failure, kidney dialysis, or even potentially a kidney transplant.

"We observed a statistically significant and independent relationship between first responder's high exposure to particulate matter and albuminuria," says Dr. McLaughlin. "Our novel research findings will pave the way for the future early diagnosis and care of these first responders' impaired kidney health. Also, in addition, it will lead to further exploration of the impact of environmental exposures and inflammation in the pathogenesis of albuminuria."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Allergic to Gummy Bears? You may have a reaction to the flu shot

Photo M.Bartosch
Do marshmallows make your tongue swell? Gummy bears make you itchy? If you’ve answered yes and are allergic to gelatin, you will want to take some precautions when getting the flu shot. While the vaccine is recommended for those six months of age and older, a case report presented at this year's American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting notes that individuals with a gelatin allergy can have a mild to severe reaction from the shot.

“Gelatin is used in the flu shot, as well as other vaccines, as a stabilizer,” said Stephanie Albin, MD, an allergist and ACAAI member. “Because it is found in the vaccine, those with a known allergy to gelatin can experience allergic reactions, such as hives, sneezing and difficulty breathing.”

There is a misconception about allergies and the flu shot, with many believing those with an egg allergy should not receive the vaccination. But last month, ACAAI published an update that found even those with a severe egg allergy can receive the vaccine without special precautions.

“Gelatin reactions can cause hives, swelling, itchiness, shortness of breath and a severe life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis,” explained Dr. Albin. “Because of this, precautions should be taken, such as having a board-certified allergist administer the vaccine in a person with known gelatin allergy in case a reaction occurs.”

Gelatin can contain proteins derived from cow, pig or fish. Gelatin can be found in a variety of foods and pharmaceuticals, including gummy vitamins, marshmallows and candy.

“Gelatin allergy is very rare,” said allergist Richard Weber, M.D., ACAAI president. “Many food intolerances can be mistaken as allergies. Those who believe they might have an allergy should be tested and diagnosed by an allergist before taking extreme avoidance measures or skipping vaccinations. The flu shot is an important vaccine and can even be life-saving for individuals that are at an increased risk for severe side effects associated with the flu.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends receiving an annual flu shot, especially for high risk age groups as children and the elderly. The vaccination can be given either as a shot or a nasal spray, both of which can contain gelatin.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Would you get allergy shots while pregnant? It may help your baby say researchers

While most expecting mothers are avoiding as many medications and treatments as possible, scientists are now suggesting that allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, during pregnancy may decrease a child's chance of developing allergies. 

“Our research found trends suggesting women receiving allergy shots either before or during pregnancy reduced their child’s chances of having asthma, food allergies, or eczema,” said allergist Jay Lieberman, MD and member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

“Prior studies have suggested that mothers can pass protective factors to their fetus that may decrease their child’s chance of developing allergic disease, and these protective factors are increased with allergy immunotherapy.”

While there is no cure for the more than 50 million Americans suffering from allergies, immunotherapy is known to modify and prevent disease progression.

According to ACAAI, allergies tend to run in families. If both parents have allergies, their children have a 75 percent chance of being allergic. If only one parent is allergic, or if a relative has allergies, the child has a 30 to 40 percent chance of having an allergy. If neither parent has allergy, the chance of a child developing an allergy is only 10 to15 percent.

“More research is needed to understand if mothers can truly prevent allergies in their children by receiving allergy shots during or before pregnancy,” said Dr. Lieberman. “However, these study results show there is a strong association which is very encouraging as allergists explore this possibility.”

If a specific allergy is identified and cannot be avoided, or medications are not sufficient, allergists prescribe immunotherapy to control and often eliminate symptoms. Immunity does not occur immediately, but some patients do begin to feel better quickly. Most patients receive monthly injections for three to five years once they reach the maintenance dose.

“Allergy shots are not only effective but cost efficient,” said allergist Warner Carr, MD, chair of the ACAAI Immunotherapy and Diagnostics Committee. “Immunotherapy can result in health care savings of 33 to 41 percent.”

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Number of asthmatics with cat allergies has doubled

It's estimated that 60 to 85 percent of people with asthma have at least one allergy, and it seems may of those people have one thing in common - cats.

A new study has revealed that the number of people with asthma that are also allergic to cats has more than doubled over an 18 year period.

“From 1976 to 1994, positive allergy skin tests in people with asthma have increased significantly,” said Leonard Bielory, MD, ACAAI fellow and study author. “Not only have we found the number of asthma sufferers allergic to cats has more than doubled, but those with asthma are also 32 percent more likely to be allergic to cats than those without asthma.”

The study also found those with asthma are more likely to be allergic to several environmental triggers  including ragweed, ryegrass and alternaria fungus.

“This study helps us better understand common trends in allergy and asthma, which can lead to improved diagnosis and treatment,” said allergist James Sublett, M.D., chair of the ACAAI Indoor Environment Committee. “While it is unknown exactly why there has been an increase in asthma and allergy sufferers, it is thought a number of environmental factors can be responsible.”

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Friday, November 08, 2013

Big Brother's Blind in China: Air pollution blocking surveillance cameras

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Air pollution in China has become a matter of national security, according to an article in the South China Morning Post.

Apparently the smog that blankets most of the country is so heavy that on some days that it actually blinds the country's huge network of security cameras.  The problem is so substantial that the government is actually concerned terrorists may choose to strike on a bad smog day.

Existing technology, such as infrared imaging can penetrate fog and smoke to a certain extent, but China's smog pollution is so dense with particles that it blocks light like a wall.

One engineer told the paper: "According to our experience, as the visibility drops below three metres, even the best camera cannot see beyond a dozen metres."

The National Natural Science Foundation of China has funded two teams, one civilian and one military, to study the issue. The experts have been ordered to come up with a solution (ironically for the cameras not the pollution) within four years.


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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Beware the toxic Brazilian blowdry: It ruined Jennifer Aniston's hair, what's it doing to our lungs

Jennifer Aniston's hair seems to get more attention that most actors. This time it's a short bob, to cut-away damage from a controversial chemical straitening treatment. 

This Brazilian-style blowdry actually uses a combination of formaldehyde (a known human carcinogen) and keratin to keep locks straight for up to three months

The disturbing part of the story is the aspect no one is talking about. If it damages hair what is it doing to the lungs of stylists who apply it day after day?

A study from the University of California, Berkeley found that formaldehyde concentrations in the air around hairstylists and customers exceeded the limits set by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The study's author Michelle Stewart is quoted as saying that 'without proper engineering controls like local exhaust ventilation [the product] could expose hairdressers and their clients to formaldehyde at levels above the short-term occupational exposure limits.'

Previous studies of workers exposed to formaldehyde have suggested an association with several cancers, including nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia.


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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

8 year-old's lung cancer is linked to air pollution

An eight-year-old girl has reportedly become China's youngest victim of lung cancer. The girl, whose identity was not released, lived near a busy road in the eastern province of Jiangsu. State media has reported that her doctors have publicly blamed exposure to air pollution for her condition.

Other physicians are also weighing-in on the country's notorious pollution problem. Li Tian, a doctor from the Nanjing Chest Hospital, says cancer rates are rising and patients are getting younger.

A report released this week also indicated that recently-diagnosed cancer patients in China represent about 20 percent of new diagnosis worldwide.

The coming weeks are likely to see more thick smog descending on cities across China as winter approaches and coal-fuelled power stations start to come online.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Scientists say Chinese Bats are the origin of the SARS pandemic

 SARS (black dots) surrounding a cell. 
A team of international scientists has isolated a very close relative of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS) from horseshoe bats in China, confirming them as the origin of the virus responsible for the 2002-3 pandemic.

SARS killed 774 people of the 8094 people infected, a case fatality ratio of almost 10 per cent. With cases diagnosed across the world, the pandemic had a major impact on international travel and trade.

While researchers globally have previously used genetic sequencing to demonstrate that bats are the natural reservoirs of a SARS-like virus, this is the first time that live virus has been successfully isolated from bats to definitively confirm them as the origin of the virus.

Horseshoe bats are found around the world, and play an important ecological role. The scientists say that their role in SARS-CoV transmission highlights the importance of protecting the bat’s natural environment so they are not forced into highly populated urban areas in search of food.
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(Image: Sandra Crameri, CSIRO)
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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hope of new treatment for severe asthma patients resistant to corticosteroids

New research from Japan brings hope of a new treatment for asthma patients resistant to corticosteroids.

Researchers from the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences and Keio University in Japan report that a type of lymphocytes called natural helper (NH) cells plays a critical role in corticosteroid resistance and demonstrate that the anti-psychotic drug Pimozide can be used to overcome resistance to steroids in severe asthma patients.

Asthma is a chronic disease characterized by a persistent inflammation of the airways. The condition can be controlled with a moderate dose of inhaled corticosteroids in most patients. However, 5-10% of patients with "severe asthma" respond poorly to a maximal dose of steroids. These patients experience uncontrolled and frequent asthma symptoms that have a profound impact on their quality of life and health care costs. Unveiling the mechanism leading to steroid resistance in these patients is therefore crucial for the development of a new, effective therapy. ​
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Monday, October 28, 2013

Yoga can "significantly" improve COPD symptoms, say researchers

Photo: Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net
Patients with COPD who practice yoga can improve their lung function, according to a study by researchers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The study, found that lung function, shortness of breath, and inflammation all showed significant improvement after patients completed 12 weeks of training.

An estimated 24 million Americans may have COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or both. Patients with COPD have trouble pushing used air out of their lungs, making it difficult to take in healthy new air. Although there is no cure for COPD, a patient’s quality of life can be improved by controlling symptoms, such as shortness of breath. COPD, most commonly caused by cigarette smoking, affects both men and women, and often, symptoms are seen in people in their 40s.

“COPD is a systemic inflammatory disease that causes difficulty breathing,” said study presenter Randeep Guleria, MD, professor and head, department of pulmonary medicine and sleep disorders. “We investigated to see whether simple, structured yoga training affects the level of inflammation, shortness of breath, and quality of life in patients with stable COPD.”

The study included 29 stable patients with COPD who received yoga training in a format that included the use of physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), cleansing techniques, (kriyas), meditation, and a relaxation technique (shavasan) for 1 hour, twice a week, for 4 weeks. Following the 4-week period, patients were trained for 1 hour every 2 weeks, with the remaining sessions completed at home. Patients were evaluated on assessment of lung function, breathing, quality of life, and inflammation status. A repeat assessment was done at the end of the 12-week training session. All parameters showed significant improvement at the end of the 12-week period.

“We found that yoga can be a simple, cost-effective method that can help improve quality of life in patients with COPD,” stated Dr. Guleria.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Smoking Long or Ultra-long Cigarettes Increases Risk of Lung Cancer

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Smokers of long or ultralong cigarettes are at greater risk for lung and oral cancer than smokers of regular and king-size cigarettes, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, Center for Global Tobacco Control.

“We found that of smokers of long or ultralong cigarettes have higher concentrations of tobacco specific carcinogens in their urine than smokers of regular or king size cigarettes,” said Constantine Vardavas, MD, senior research scientist, Harvard School of Public Health.

Vardavas and colleagues compared urine tests among 3,699 smokers of regular, king-sized and long or ultralong cigarettes using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) from 2007-2010. Smokers of king-sized cigarettes accounted for 53% of total smokers, smokers of long or ultralong cigarettes constituted 31.5%, and smokers of regular-sized cigarettes made up the remaining 15.4% of the smoker population. They found that smokers of long or ultralong cigarettes had significantly higher levels of NNAL—an indicator of tobacco-specific carcinogen—in their urine. In addition, researchers found that older smokers, non-Hispanic blacks, and females had a greater tendency to smoke long or ultralong cigarettes.

“While the significant risks of smoking are well known and accepted, very little information exists on the health risks of different sizes of cigarettes,” said Darcy Marciniuk, MD, FCCP and President of the ACCP. “This study indicates that there is an added risk to those smoking long and ultralong cigarettes.”

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

PVC flooring linked to asthma in children

A new study has found that Children exposed to PVC flooring are more likely to develop asthma during the following 10 year period.

There are also indications that PVC flooring in the parents’ bedrooms were actually more strongly associated with the new cases of asthma when compared with child's own bedroom. This could be an indication that the children were exposed in the womb as well.

Soft polyvinyl chloride (PVC) includes phthalates that normally are released to the surrounding environment. Phthalates is a group of chemicals with suspected endocrine disrupting properties that may impact on several chronic diseases/disorders such as asthma and allergy. The current study was aimed to investigate if PVC-flooring in the home of children in the age of 1-5 years was associated with the development of asthma in 5-year and 10-year follow-up investigations.

The Dampness in Buildings and Health (DBH) study started in the year of 2000 with a questionnaire to the parents of more than 14,000 children (1-5 years of age) in Värmland, Sweden, with responses from almost 11,000 children corresponding to a response rate of 79%. In this baseline questionnaire we screened for health in the family, lifestyles, building characteristics, etc. In 2005 we made a first 5 year follow up study and 2010 we made a second 10 year follow up, i.e., the data for the current study. The major interest in the follow up studies was to identify children that had developed asthma and other allergic diseases during the period after the baseline investigation.

Children who had PVC floorings in the bedroom were more likely to develop doctor diagnosed asthma during the following 10 years period when compared with children living without such flooring material. The risk was in several cases more than doubled. Furthermore, there were indications that PVC flooring in the parents’ bedrooms were stronger associated with the new cases of doctor diagnosed asthma when compared with child's bedroom. This could be an indication that prenatal exposure is of importance.

The scientists previously found that PVC flooring material is a source for phthalates found in indoor air, specifically in household dust. This exposure can be associated with eczema and asthma in children.

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