Feb
25
2023

Fruit and Vegetables for Children

We know for some time that fruit and vegetables for children are important. Now a new study from the CDC showed that not enough children eat fruit and vegetables. Researchers interviewed the parents of nearly 18,000 children ages 1 to 5 in 2021. They asked the parents what their children consumed the previous week. They paid particular attention to fruit, vegetables and sugar sweetened beverages. The results were published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on February 17, 2023. The results were surprising and also were published by CNN.

  • Almost 50% of the children did not eat a vegetable every day and about 33% of them did not eat a fruit every day.
  • 57% of the children drank at least one sugar sweetened drink per week.
  • A 1-year-old child was much more likely to eat a fruit or vegetable a day and less likely to consume a sugary drink compared to the older children up to the age of 5.

Dr. Heather Hamner, a senior author of the study and a senior health scientist at the CDC stated that there were some interesting findings in different states. She said: “This is the first time we’ve had state-level estimates on these behaviors. It’s a really good time to think about the programs and policies that states have in place and areas where they can continue to work and improve to make the nutrition environment the best it can be for our young children.”

Comparison of children’s food intake state by state

Here are some of the highlights when food behaviors were compared state to state.

  • More than 50% of twenty states including Washington, DC drank a sugar sweetened drink in the preceding week.
  • 80% of the children in Mississippi had one sugar sweetened drink in the preceding week, the highest of all states.
  • In contrast, only 38.6% of children in Maine drank a sugar sweetened drink at the same time, the lowest of all states.
  • Over 50% of 20 states did not eat a vegetable every day in the preceding week.
  • In Louisiana nearly 60% of the children did not consume a daily vegetable and almost 50% did not eat a daily fruit.
  • On the bright side: Vermont reported the highest rate of daily consumption of fruit and vegetables among the age 1 to 5 children group.

Racial differences among children’s eating habits

The investigators analyzed food habits of black children versus Caucasian children. They found that children of black parents were less likely to eat a daily vegetable or fruit while white children were more likely to consume fruit and vegetables.

About 70% of black parents reported that their child was consuming at least one sugar-sweetened drink in the preceding week. The investigators termed the household with poor food habits “households with marginal or low food sufficiency “. In these households the children were less likely to consume a daily fruit or vegetable. At the same time, they were more likely to drink a sugar sweetened drink.

General needs of children

Children in the age group of 1 to 5 need daily fruit and vegetables for their normal development. The CDC has established some time ago that Children ages 2 or 3 should have at least a cup of fruit and a cup of vegetables every day while kids ages 4 to 8 should have 1.5 cups of each every day. The CDC report said: “Limiting or reducing foods and beverages higher in added sugars, including sugar-sweetened beverages, is important because added sugars are associated with increased risk of obesity, dental caries, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”

Laying a foundation for future healthy eating habits

Dr. Hamner said: “We’ve found that it can take up to 10 times for a child to try a new food before they like it,” she said. “Continuing to try and expose young children to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is an important piece.” Another point is that parents should not only stick to fresh vegetables and fruit, but also include frozen and canned versions for greater variety.

Adding these essential vitamins is laying a strong food foundation for your child and has a lasting impact. Dr. Hamner added: “One of the things that’s really important is early dietary behaviors. This is really when kids are laying the foundation for some of those dietary behaviors, so starting out strong and making sure that they’re creating these healthy behaviors … that’s going to set them up as they go into adolescence and adulthood.”

Preventing adult food habits

A large portion of snacks from the mid-section of the grocery store contains all forms of sugar. There is high fructose corn syrup, sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup etc.  You may think that a harmless fruit juice would be healthy. But then you read the ingredient list on the label. It says that it contains 5 to 6 teaspoons of sugar per cup (250 ml) of juice.

Unfortunately, our body is not equipped to process all the sugar that the food industry wants us to consume, and we develop insulin resistance; the liver converts the excess sugars into fat and deposits it into our arteries and as fat deposits between our guts (visceral fat) and as subcutaneous fat in the thighs, around the hips and the waist. It is no secret that a lot of obesity is related to overconsumption of sugar containing convenience foods (snacks and sugar-laden drinks).

Artificial sweeteners

Often low-calorie alternatives contain aspartame or sucralose (Splenda). Aspartame is an excitotoxin damaging your brain cells and sucralose was developed in the 1950’s. It was a side product in the development as an insecticide. We do not want to replace disease-promoting sugar with toxins as sweeteners. Safe alternatives for sugar are xylitol, mannitol, and stevia.

Starchy foods

What is sometimes overlooked is the fact that your body digests bread, starchy foods such as potatoes, and pasta, rice and flour products like pizza or cookies within 30 minutes into sugar that is as harmful to your pancreas as plain sugar or high fructose corn syrup. The body reacts with the same overproduction of insulin converting the excess sugar into fat and depositing it in your body as described above. Much of the obesity wave we see in the past 3 decades is due to baked goods like bagels, bread, pasta and pizza. It is much better to enjoy your stevia-sweetened coffee without any bakery pieces.

When you replace some of the excess starchy foods with vegetables and fruit, you rebalance your diet and reduce the extra sugar load. When a child starts this process early in the age group of 1 to 5, healthy eating habits get imprinted, which prepares the individual for adolescence and adulthood.

Fruit and Vegetables for Children

Fruit and Vegetables for Children

Conclusion

Healthy eating is what you learn in childhood. A thorough analysis of children in the age group of 1 to 5 by the CDC showed the following. In the US children of this age consume too much sugar-containing beverages. At the same time, they avoid vegetables and fruit. They also found that 80% of the children in Mississippi had one sugar sweetened drink in the preceding week. This was the highest of all states. In contrast, only 38.6% of children in Maine drank a sugar-sweetened drink at the same time. This was the lowest of all states. In addition, they found that children of black parents were less likely to eat a daily vegetable or fruit. But white children were more likely to eat daily vegetables or fruit. About 70% of black parents reported that their child was consuming at least one sugar-sweetened drink in the preceding week.

Households with marginal or low food sufficiency

The investigators termed the households with poor food habits “households with marginal or low food sufficiency “. In these households the children were less likely to consume a daily fruit or vegetable. At the same time, they were more likely to drink a sugar sweetened drink.

The researchers concluded that early childhood behaviors were influencing the lives of adolescents and adults. Unfortunately, this influence is often negative leading to obesity and cardiovascular disease. But the opposite can also be true. Parents can use their influence on their children by increasing vegetable and fruit intake and reduce sugar-containing drinks. This helps the children to adopt healthy food habits well into adolescence and adulthood.

Oct
07
2017

How Much Drinking During Pregnancy Is Safe?

A recent review of the literature asked: how much drinking during pregnancy is safe? To the surprise of the researchers there was no clear answer in the medical literature between 1950 and July 2016. The researchers wanted to know whether 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks in a week would show a negative effect. Or would it affect the fetus and cause fetal alcohol syndrome?

What is fetal alcohol syndrome?

A mother who drinks several drinks of alcohol per day during her pregnancy will inflict serious damage to her baby. The end result is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). There is growth deficiency, usually below the 10 percentile in terms of weight, height or both. There is a characteristic facial appearance like small eye openings and a thin upper lip. In addition severe central nervous system damage is another toxic effect of alcohol on the fetal brain. This leads to gait problems, speech and psychological problems.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

When a pregnant woman consumes less alcoholic beverages, there may be less damage to the fetus. This partial damage to the fetus is called “fetal alcohol spectrum disorder”, which resembles the term “autism spectrum disorder”. However, these two conditions are not related.

In a child with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder some features of fetal alcohol syndrome would be present, but not all. A child with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder may be able to lead an independent life as an adult.

Present rules about drinking during pregnancy

The CDC and the FDA say that a pregnant woman should not consume any alcohol during pregnancy. It even includes the weeks before a pregnancy. In addition, it also applies to the male before he fathers a child. It is a fact that sperm and precursors of sperm are very sensitive to alcohol toxicity. A woman’s eggs are also sensitive to alcohol toxicity. There is no place for a romantic dinner with alcohol  and sex later in the evening, that leads to a pregnancy. Romance and a romantic dinner is quite possible without alcohol, if sex that leads to pregnancy is in the plans. If you plan on getting pregnant as a couple you must be responsible, male or female. In view of all of the knowledge it is just not a good idea to subject yourself to alcohol before pregnancy.

New questions about the minimum toxic amount of alcohol

A search of the literature between 1950 and July 2016 has not revealed any convincing data about what one glass of alcohol per day would do during pregnancy. Some researchers will likely want to approach this topic in the near future. There are many women in the US who drink that much during pregnancy, but do not tell their healthcare providers. Researchers would like to conduct a trial where they follow women who consume one glass of alcohol per day during pregnancy. They will want to compare that to a control group with no alcohol intake during the pregnancy. Next would be a thorough investigation of the offspring and about the presence or absence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. At the present time there is no such data. We know that some women expose themselves to these smaller amounts of alcohol. But we do not know whether or not there is a serious consequence for this.

New meta-analysis study from Bristol, England in 2016 regarding drinking during pregnancy

The closest study that may answer part of the above questions is a metaanalysis from England. It attempted to shed some light on exposure of smaller amounts of alcohol during pregnancy. They examined several studies where the exposure was up to 32 Grams of alcohol per week during pregnancy. This is called a meta-analysis.

Researchers examined several parameters like stillbirth, gestational length and preterm delivery (less than 37 weeks). They also examined other factors, like a small baby for gestational age, low birth weight (less than 2500 g), and features of FAS.

Findings of the Bristol study

Researchers pooled a total of 288, 512 participants from several studies. The low alcohol consumption group (less than 32 grams per week) had 10% preterm deliveries. 8% of the babies were small for their gestational age. The offspring of pregnant ladies who drank up to 32 grams of alcohol per week were compared to abstainers. The alcohol consuming group had babies that on average weighed 13.49 grams less. Low birth weights (less than 2500 grams) were the same in both groups. A large US study showed a 24% risk of placental abruption in the light-drinking group compared to abstainers. FAS symptoms, conduct disorder or hyperactivity syndrome were the same in any of the pooled studies. The outcome between abstainers and light-drinking mothers was the same. No apparent difference could be found between the children of either group.

Common sense about drinking during pregnancy

At this point it is the safest to go by the recommendation of the CDC and all the official medical societies that recommend to not drinking any alcohol 3 months before a planned pregnancy and during the pregnancy. I consider it common sense that you avoid a known nerve toxin like alcohol during pregnancy. The toxic effect of alcohol in a high enough dosage does horrendous damage, as it is obvious with fetal alcohol syndrome. It stunts the baby’s growth and damages the brain. We have also seen that a lower exposure to alcohol still produces fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. It does not make sense to me to gamble, whether a lower concentration of alcohol may be “safe” to the fetus.

Limits of what research to do

Knowing that alcohol is a toxin to nervous tissue demands that no pregnant woman should drink alcoholic beverages at all. It simply is not safe. I suspect that some researcher who must do research at any cost will one day produce that hypothetical study of one drink of alcohol per day during pregnancy. I think it will show that a significant amount of cases have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The conclusion will be that it is safer not to drink alcohol during pregnancy.

How Much Drinking During Pregnancy Is Safe?

How Much Drinking During Pregnancy Is Safe?

Conclusion

Sometimes science is going beyond where it should go. In the study analyzed above several studies were pooled as a metaanalysis. There are limitations in terms of reliability of such studies.

But when it comes to testing what smaller amounts of alcohol do to a pregnancy we need to ask a few questions. Are we as a society really willing to risk future humans just to satisfy our curiosity whether or not drinking during pregnancy would be “safe”? Common sense tells us that alcohol as a known neurotoxic substance will be detrimental to a developing brain in a fetus, even in smaller amounts. Also, it is not clear whether ethics committees throughout the US will allow such a claim or will shut it down in the planning stages before it can ever take off. I would guess that it is more likely that any such plans for a trial of that nature will come under the scrutiny of the medical authorities including the CDC, the FDA and the American Medical Association and be shut down fairly quickly, because of the potential damage that could be inflicted onto the fetus.

It is much safer to carry on with the existing laws and recommendations and avoid all alcohol exposure before and during pregnancy.

Apr
29
2016

The Hazards Of Formaldehyde

Toxic levels of formaldehyde in laminate wood flooring were underestimated, concealing the hazards of formaldehyde. Specifically, laminate wood flooring produced in China and sold by Lumber Liquidators, based in Toano, Virginia were identified as a problem.

News about the hazards of formaldehyde in Chinese laminate flooring

Last year CBS ran a story with Anderson Cooper regarding Chinese imported laminate flooring that emitted more than the stated amount of toxic formaldehyde. This was based on independent testing by CBS. Examiners found that laminate packages released between 6 and 7 times the amount of allowable formaldehyde. Moreover, some packages of the cheap Chinese made laminate flooring even released 20 times the allowable amount.

Certainly, formaldehyde is part of the glue in use to bind the wood particles together to make the laminate flooring. The laminate top seals the wooden core and keeps most of the formaldehyde inside.

Formaldehyde leaks into the home slowly

But over time it gradually leaks into the home. It is a matter of how much formaldehyde was in the glue and how good the ventilation of the home is, which determines the concentration of formaldehyde in the air.

CBS bought 31 boxes of the Chinese-made laminate flooring that Lumber Liquidators was selling in Virginia, Florida, Texas, Illinois and New York. The examiners sent samples to two reference labs. Most noteworthy, only one package was compliant with formaldehyde emissions standards. Some were more than 13 times over the California limit. Both labs were surprised how high the readings were, as they had not encountered this when they tested regular laminate flooring before.

Effects of the hazards of formaldehyde

Dr. Philip Landrigan at N.Y.’s Mt. Sinai Hospital specializes in environmental pediatrics and exposure to toxic chemicals. He stated that what matters is the concentration of formaldehyde in the typical home where such a floor is installed. Nevertheless, it needs to be stated that these toxic levels were only found in the cheap flooring of the above named company and this product has since been removed from the market. Above all, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen (cancer producing substance). As a matter of fact, it irritates the airways, particularly in individuals who are sensitive like asthmatics.

Toxic effects on immune system of formaldehyde exposed workers

A 2014 occupational medicine study from China compared factory workers exposed to formaldehyde with controls. Notably, they found higher formic acid levels in the urine of exposed workers. Formic acid is the end metabolic product of formaldehyde. In addition, they also had higher B cell lymphocyte counts (in the high dose exposure group) and higher natural killer lymphocyte counts (in the low dose exposure group). As a result, this would explain the toxic effects on the immune system and the higher incidence of cancer in formaldehyde exposed individuals.

DNA changes in mouth cavity cells and nasal cells of anatomy workers

A 2015 study from Portugal examined DNA abnormalities in cells from anatomy workers. Furthermore, anatomy workers who prepare corpses with formaldehyde for anatomy courses are under the exposure of formaldehyde fumes. Another exposure can happen when fixating histology slides with formaldehyde to get them ready for microscopic examination. The researchers measured the the formaldehyde concentration in the air of the anatomy lab as 0.38 parts per million. Likewise, genetic analysis of cells from the mouth cavity and nasal cells showed significant DNA abnormalities, while controls without formaldehyde exposure did not have such DNA changes.

Formaldehyde poisons p53 cancer suppressor gene

In this study there was insufficient data to link formaldehyde exposure to causation of leukemia.  It is peculiar that on a molecular level it is clear what formaldehyde does to the p53 suppressor gene. But it is more difficult to show the link of formaldehyde exposure to the causation of a multitude of cancers.

WHO recommendation about formaldehyde

The WHO recommends keeping formaldehyde below 0.08 ppm in the air of factories where formaldehyde is used. WHO says that this will prevent nasal cancer and leukemia. Levels of 1 ppm can cause nasal cancer and leukemia in humans. The level for hardwood plywood is 0.05 ppm in the US since 2012

The CDC involvement in safe formaldehyde levels in the air of a home

The CDC faced with the problem of the Chinese laminate imports of Lumber Liquidators and did its own investigation. The conclusion was that these high concentrations of formaldehyde were not only affecting sensitive people, but in fact everybody. The CDC stated: “The lifetime cancer risk increased from the previous estimate of 2 to 9 extra cases for every 100,000 people to between 6 and 30 extra cases per 100,000 people. To put these numbers into perspective, the American Cancer Society estimates that up to 50,000 of every 100,000 people may develop cancer from all causes over their lifetimes.”

New guidelines for the limit of formaldehyde in residences

New guidelines for the limit of formaldehyde in residences were defined as 135 µg/m³ by the National Center for Environmental Health. This is a different nomenclature for formaldehyde concentration in the air and I will show the conversion to parts per million particles in a moment. This reference explains that 1 ppm = 1.23 mg/m³. 135 µg/m³ is the same as 0.135 mg/m³. When you divide 0.135 mg/m³ by 1.23 mg/m³, you have converted this into 0.11 ppm, the upper acceptable formaldehyde limit. Had the company followed proper procedure, it is clear from the recommendation above that the formaldehyde level of 0.05 ppm was in the safe zone. It was much smaller than 0.11 ppm. The cheap batch of plywood discussed above with the high formaldehyde glue gave measurements much higher than any of these guidelines.

Company response to bad publicity regarding “the hazards of formaldehyde”

As the stock of Lumber Liquidators plunged, the company decided to do something about this. In May of 2015 they stopped the sale of the cheap laminate products. It turned out that they had been poor quality, cheaper laminate boards; the producer had used glue with too much formaldehyde in it. The company had knowingly bought these for a 10% discount and hoped to make a huge profit through its over 360 stores in 46 states. Before this fiasco revenue was more than a billion dollars a year. Now the company tries to rescue its brand name through an ongoing painstaking public relations effort.

What to do, if you own cheap laminate flooring with the hazards of formaldehyde?

The CDC says you should ventilate the home, use additional vents to remove bad air, keep the temperature at the lowest comfortable setting and make your home a smoke-free home.

Many homeowners have ripped out the cheap laminate flooring and replaced it with better quality products and joined a class action suit against the company that sold them the product. Others leave it in place, open the windows and doors more frequently to keep the air concentration of formaldehyde lower; and they follow the other suggestions from the CDC.

According to this update formaldehyde levels are decreased significantly 6 to 10 months after initial installation.

The Hazards Of Formaldehyde

The Hazards Of Formaldehyde

Conclusion

Had Lumber Liquidators not been greedy for profit, we may never have known the story of formaldehyde overdosing of glue in one bad batch of laminate flooring. The unsuspecting consumer got a special deal, but nobody informed the consumer about the hazards of formaldehyde release! Keep in mind that not everything that is cheap is good quality.

Only a few years back urea formaldehyde was very popular as a means to insulate your home. Homeowners soon found out that this could lead to toxic formaldehyde fumes and they had to replace urea formaldehyde with glass fiber insulation.

Never sit back and think you are safe

You may not have to panic. Frequent ventilation, as described, can lower the formaldehyde concentration in the air. And eventually in the case of laminate flooring the concentration is low enough from the passage of time that there is no longer a danger from leaking formaldehyde gases.

What I have learnt from this is the following: never sit back and think you are safe. Watch what you are eating. Watch what you are drinking. Women, watch what cosmetics you put on your skin. Be aware of the potential hazards of fire retardant in textiles and noxious substances in building products. All of this can impact the quality of the air you are breathing!

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May
21
2014

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

A new report from the CDC (Center of Disease Control) in the US has revealed that up to 40% of premature deaths could be prevented by simple lifestyle changes. As this link shows every year about 900,000 premature deaths occur in the US, which are due to 5 major diseases that in the opinion of the CDC can be prevented by 20 to 40%. Here are the diseases that kill: cancer, heart disease, COPD/emphysema, stroke and accidents/injuries. These conditions were responsible for 63% of all deaths in the US in 2010.

Let’s discuss each of these conditions and how one could lower the risk of dying from them.

1. Cancer:

The Framingham Heart Study has shown that smoking and cancer are closely related. Smokers who quit can significantly reduce their risk of getting cancer. We also know that exercise and prophylactic supplements like fish oil and vitamin D3 have cancer preventative effects.

Antioxidant supplementation that included beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E daily or on alternate days for 1 to 12 years, along with selenium supplementation reduced the incidence of cancer of the esophagus, colon, pancreas, stomach or the liver. Insulin resistance due to sugar and starch overconsumption is causing cancer, particularly breast cancer, colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer. I have discussed this in a recent blog.

Pollution has been linked to increased lung cancer risks as discussed here.

2. Heart disease:

Heart disease can be caused by several factors in combination. Lifestyle issues are important: Smokers need to quit smoking as the Framingham Heart Study has shown more than fifty years ago that smoking causes heart attacks. Obesity and diabetes also contribute significantly to the risk of heart disease. Often these are connected to faulty nutrition, which is another lifestyle issue that comes to mind when too much sugar and starchy foods are taken in; your liver will convert these into fatty acids, triglycerides and elevated, oxidized LDL cholesterol, which gets deposited under the lining of the arteries. A lack of exercise adds to this problem as a lack of exercise lowers the protective HDL cholesterol and fat is deposited under the lining of the arteries. Start exercising and your protective HDL cholesterol will rise, your total cholesterol to HDL ratio will lower to healthier levels and your risk for hardening of the arteries and for getting a heart attack will fall. If you have diabetes, it is important that you manage your blood sugars well; this means that if you inject insulin, you want the blood sugar tests to be within the normal range and the hemoglobin A1C values to be below 5.5%. Poorly controlled diabetes is an important cause of heart attacks and strokes. High blood pressure is also an important cause of developing heart attacks and strokes. It is important to control your blood pressure by taking blood pressure lowering pills and also by exercising regularly. Exercise seems to send a signal to relax the blood vessels thus lowering the blood pressure, which in turn prevents heart attacks.

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

Forty Percent Of Premature Deaths Can Be Prevented

 

3. COPD/emphysema:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema is mostly caused by chronic exposure to cigarette smoke from smoking. The earlier you can quit, the better your chances that your breathing will not be the limiting factor when you age. But it is also important to avoid exposure to other noxious gases, such as from welding and from exposure to pollution. This may involve a decision to move to a less polluted area. Or it might involve a job retraining. Those who are suffering from COPD can be helped to a certain extent by a portable oxygen tank with nasal prongs.

4. Stroke:

As mentioned before, quitting smoking, controlling high blood pressure and controlling blood sugar, if you suffer from diabetes have been shown to stabilize your blood vessels including the ones that supply your brain. The key is to prevent hardening of the arteries by a healthy lifestyle. Exercising and keeping your weight under a body mass index of 25.0 have been shown to be effective stroke prevention. Healthy nutrition as indicated above under “heart disease” is equally important for stroke prevention. Go green (eat more vegetables, consume more green smoothies), cut down grains, sugar and starchy foods and you will live longer without strokes and heart attacks. Remember, what’s good for your heart is good for your brain!

5. Unintentional accidents/injuries:

Wearing helmets when bicycling, wearing seat belts when driving in a car, avoiding risky behaviors are all measures that save lives. One factor stands out in all of this: if you drink too much, you run the risk of being involved in unintentional accidents or injuries. People may not like to hear this, but your brain lacks the natural inhibitory impulses when you are under the influence of alcohol, so you become more daring and you may not pay attention for the split second that could have prevented an injury or accident. People react very differently to alcohol. Some people feel inebriated after only ½ a glass of wine or beer whereas others can drink more before they make mistakes. The best is to be sober when you drive, ski, use power tools or walk in traffic. Even climbing ladders requires a clear mind!

Conclusion:

As the CDC said 20 to 40% of premature deaths (deaths that occurred before the age of 80) could have been prevented, if the above-mentioned recommendations were followed. Let me rephrase this: 180,000 to 360,000 premature deaths every year in the US before the age of 80 could have been prevented! Curative medicine cannot help with these statistics as a heart attack or stroke has happened when it has struck you. Cancer and end stage lung disease are similar conditions that you are suddenly faced with when they occur and unintentional accidents just seem to happen. This is where the importance of prevention can be seen, because these little baby steps every day are adding up to something formidable, a force to be reckoned with. Be part of the solution, think prevention!

More information on:

1. Cancer mortality: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/overview/cancer-mortality-rate/

2. Higher vitamin D3 intake lowers mortality from heart attacks, strokes, cancer, fractures due to osteoporosis: http://nethealthbook.com/news/higher-vitamin-d-levels-associated-lower-risk-mortality/

Last edited Nov. 8, 2014

Mar
15
2014

Mold Allergies Often Overlooked

In a recent news story extensive mold infestation was found in a house that had oriented strand boards (OSB) instead of plywood walls. The house also was tightly sealed trapping moisture, which contributed to the extensive mold problem.

Mold problems have been around for centuries, but only in the past few decades allergists  have pointed out to their patients how important it is to prevent this from happening.

In the following I will review a few typical scenarios that can lead to mold accumulation.

1. Mold from airtight house construction

The homeowner described in the link above is not the only case in the world that has a mold problem. Energy efficient homes are popular because they save energy costs; homeowners often also respond to gas companies, electric utility companies and government incentives to convert to airtight home construction.

In the 1980’s the construction industry introduced the cheaper OSB products to replace the more expensive plywood for wall construction. This is often the problem with newer house construction. However, older homes are not immune to mold development.

2. Roof leaks in older homes

Older homes that were built in the 1970’s may have plywood walls and have a bit of airflow from poorer wall construction, which would prevent mold formation. But roofs are older and do not always get replaced right away when a leak is detected. It may even take some time in areas where there is less precipitation before it is picked up during a particularly heavy rainstorm. Water that enters from a leaky roof can form a puddle on top of the ceiling where mold softens the drywall material until a leak in the ceiling causes water to drip down onto the floor. The mold spores multiply particularly well in wall-to-wall carpeting, but OSB material is also a good growth opportunity for molds due to the mini air spaces between the glued wood pieces. Plywood with its several tight layers is much more resistant to water penetration and mold growth.

Mold Allergies Often Overlooked

Mold Allergies Often Overlooked

3. Mold growth after hurricanes

After hurricane Sandy images of “black mold” were frequently shown in the media. The problem is that after 48 hours anything that was in contact with water produces mold. However, often with disasters like hurricanes there are evacuation orders and you cannot return to your home for several days. There may be further delay because there is a waiting period for insurers to assess the amount of damage, before you can clean all surfaces affected by mold.

The end is result often that expensive mold sanitation is needed or the person ends up moving away and the house is levelled before a new house can be built.

4. Effects of molds

People with preexisting allergies and asthma are more susceptible to the effects of molds. It leads to itchy eyes, wheezing, coughing, and exacerbation of asthma.

Here is a brief overview what the CDC is stating about mold. This site also explains that you can recognize a mold problem because of a musty smell or foul stench in the air and because of the appearance (discoloration of ceilings or walls, water damage).

You can clean hard surfaces with bleach water. Bleach kills molds, but it may have to be cleaned several times within a few days to get rid of the last spores. Whatever cannot be sanitized in this way must be removed or replaced.

5. Health concerns regarding molds

Ref. 1 reviewed the public concern about the toxic effects of molds. It noted that with the Internet and the popular press having exaggerated some of the connections of symptoms with mold allergies, the term “mold madness” has been coined (Ref.2). Despite the paranoia in the general public about toxins from molds, there is only a small percentage of the population that is sensitive to molds where IgE antibodies and IgG antibodies against molds can be determined through blood tests. These individuals often are also allergic to other environmental allergens like grass pollen and dust mites. The asthmatic reactions in sensitive people are not as severe as what peanut traces would do to peanut sensitive patients, but skin testing and blood test screening for specific IgE and IgG antibodies do often confirm that sensitive people indeed can have specific mold allergies. In the vast majority of people these tests are negative and correlations between mold infestations and allergic reactions could not be verified (Ref.1).

6. Fixing mold damage and dealing with allergies

It follows from this that you should remove any visible molds and fix whatever the cause was for its appearance. Carefully disinfect the areas with diluted bleach water (the CDC recommends 1 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water) several times. Make sure the areas are dry and not musty otherwise you  have  work on improving ventilation. If you are not one of these hypersensitive persons, there is nothing to worry further. However, if you are hypersensitive an allergist should examine you. Common indoor molds that cause the so-called “immediate type hyper reactivity” are due to the mold species Aspergillum and Penicillium. Most outdoor molds that can cause problems for sensitive people are due to Alternaria and Cladosporium species. The latter would be the ones found in carpets after a leaky roof has caused problems. When the allergist has found specific allergies to one or several of the mold species, allergy shots may be prescribed that would have to be given weekly to the sensitive person who was found to have environmentally induced asthma. Often it takes several years for these desensitization shots to stop the affected person from reacting  to molds. In some cases patients need to stay on these shots life-long.

Conclusion

The key with regard to mold allergies is to prevent mold growth by being vigilant about detecting early problems with leaky roofs, walls and cleaning up water damage right away. When there is a musty tell- tale smell, investigate right away and remedy the problem. For most people this is the end of the story. However, a small percentage of very sensitive people need to consult with an allergist who should investigate whether or not these people would benefit from allergy injections.

In some rare cases the affected person may have to relocate to another house that is free from molds.

More information about asthma: http://nethealthbook.com/lung-disease/asthma-introduction/

References

1.Shannon: Haddad and Winchester’s Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 4th ed. Copyright 2007 Saunders

2. Zacharisen MC, Fink JN: “Is indoor “mold madness” upon us?” Ann. Allergy Asthma Immun. 2005; 94:12-13.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014