Archives for category: Allergies

From Los Angeles Times:

We’ve all heard that the overuse of antibiotics is making them less effective and fueling the rise of dangerous drug-resistant bacteria. But did you know it may also be fueling the rise of obesity, diabetes, allergies and asthma?

So says Dr. Martin Blaser, microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at New York University Langone Medical Center who studies the myriad bacteria that live on and in our bodies. He explains his theory in a commentary published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Nature.

In recent years, scientists have developed a growing appreciation for the “microbiome,” the collection of mostly useful bacteria that help us digest food, metabolize key nutrients and ward off invading pathogens. Investigators have cataloged thousands of these organisms through the National Institutes of Health’s Human Microbiome Project, begun in 2008.

Blaser is interested in why so many bacteria have colonized the human body for so long – the simple fact that they have strongly suggests that they serve some useful purpose. But these bacteria have come under attack in the last 80 or so years thanks to the development of antibiotics. The drugs certainly deserve some of the credit for extending the U.S. lifespan, Blaser notes – a baby born today can expect to live 78 years, 15 years longer than a baby born in 1940. But in many respects, an antibiotic targets a particular disease the way a nuclear bomb targets a criminal, causing much collateral damage to things you’d rather not destroy.

“Antibiotics kill the bacteria we do want, as well as those we don’t,” Blaser writes. “Sometimes, our friendly flora never fully recover.”

And that can leave us more susceptible to various kinds of diseases, especially considering that the typical American is exposed to 10 to 20 antibiotics during childhood alone. Blaser points out that the rise (let along overuse) of antibiotics coincides with dramatic increases in the prevalence of allergies, asthma, Type 1 diabetes, obesity and inflammatory bowel disease. That isn’t proof that the two are related, but it’s a question worth exploring, he says.

Take the case of Helicobacter pylori. As Blaser explains, this bacterium was “the dominant microbe in the stomachs of almost all people” in the early 1900s. But 100 years later, it is found in less than 6% of American, Swedish and German kids. One likely reason is that a single course of amoxicillin or another antibiotic to treat an ear or respiratory infection can wipe out H. pylori 20% to 50% of the time.



From 13 WTHR:

13 Investigates has discovered an invisible problem in classrooms all across Indiana.

You can’t see it or smell it. You can’t taste it or touch it.

But it’s there — sometimes far more than it should be – and it can impact students’ health and education.

The problem is elevated levels of CO2, also known as carbon dioxide.

“Carbon dioxide is actually a natural chemical that is formed when we breathe,” explained Veda Ackerman, a pediatric pulmonologist at Riley Hospital for Children. “If you go back to basic biology class, we all breathe in oxygen and breathe out CO2 … At low levels, it doesn’t cause problems at all.”

But in schools with poor air circulation, CO2 levels can rise rapidly when students pack into a classroom.

13 Investigates found schools across the state have been cited for CO2 levels considered too high by the Indiana State Department of Health and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

That’s when students can begin to feel the impact.

How students suffer

“Higher levels of carbon dioxide make a person sleepy and it also decreases their learning ability,” said David Gettinger, a facilities manager who monitors CO2 levels for Perry Township Schools. “More carbon dioxide means there’s not enough oxygen in the classroom and you don’t think as straight.”

Ron Clark, who conducts school indoor air quality inspections for the state health department, says elevated CO2 levels are one of the most common problems he finds in schools.

“It means they aren’t bringing in enough fresh air for students,” Clark said. “It would impact their education and their learning level.”

Several studies, including a soon-to-be-released report from the University of Tulsa, link elevated carbon dioxide levels and poor air circulation with decreased student performance.

Prolonged exposure to CO2 is also linked to decreased student health.

In schools with high carbon dioxide levels, poor airflow often means pollutants in classrooms are not being flushed out by fresh air. That can trigger serious medical issues in children with asthma and other health problems. Asthma is the leading cause of student absenteeism in the nation, resulting in millions of missed school days each year. Nearly a quarter million Indiana children have been diagnosed with asthma, according to the state health department.

More (including video).

Links to Resources:

Australian Associated Press: Cleaning agents may harm health.

Chemicals used to improve cleanliness may be harming the health of children and adults, new US research suggests. A study shows that young people who are over-exposed to the soap agent triclosan are more likely to suffer allergies. In adults, the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), used in plastics and to line food cans, may suppress the immune system. A resin coating containing BPA allows tin cans to be heated to kill off bugs without the metal contaminating food.

The chemical will be banned from baby bottles by mid-2011 under a ruling announced last week by the European Commission. But according to the new research, it may be most harmful to adults.  More . . .

Chemical & Engineering News: Coal ash spill in Tennessee still a problem.

Nearly two years ago, 978,000,000 gallons of wet coal ash spilled into the Emory River and its tributaries near Kingston, Tenn. Now researchers from Duke University report that the spill polluted downstream sediments with unexpectedly high levels of a particularly toxic form of arsenic.

The spill occurred on Dec. 22, 2008, when a holding pond ruptured, releasing its waste from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant, a coal-fired power plant. Ash produced by burning coal isn’t regulated as hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency, because the EPA’s testing protocol—known as the Toxicity Characterization Leaching Protocol—assumes that coal ash contaminants do not seep from municipal landfills into nearby water. The TVA spill provided a useful—if tragic—opportunity to test this assumption, says Duke geochemist Avner Vengosh: “It became a huge field experiment.” More . . .Upstre

Santa Cruz Sentinel: Statewide protest targets new strawberry pesticide.

State regulators plan to give strawberry growers the OK to use methyl iodide this month.

The pesticide, which kills bugs, weeds and disease that are particularly threatening to berries, is touted as a better alterative to methyl bromide, which is being phased out because of harm it’s done to the ozone layer. But a last-ditch campaign is under way to halt approval of methyl iodide, citing problems with the alternate choice.

“We’ve heard that methyl iodide is a carcinogen. That’s not disputed…. So why are we even having this conversation?” said state Assemblyman Bill Monning, D-Carmel.

Monning was among a coalition of environmentalists, researchers and organic farmers that gathered Monday at Jacobs Farm in Santa Cruz County – and at six other sites statewide – protesting the impending use of methyl iodide and asking the governor or governor-elect to block it. The Legislature, Monning said, was not in a position to intervene now and future legislative efforts would be slow and uncertain.

“We want to stop it before it’s in the fields,” he said.  More . . .

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