Saturday July 4, 2020



January 15

The Stamford Times



Experts: Expect record high pollen levels



Posted on 04/28/2010




Times Staff Writer 



REGION -- Spring is in the air. And so is pollen. 


The fine yellow dust best known for irritating sinuses has already arrived, and experts predict 2010 will be one of the worst allergy seasons in recent memory. 


"My prediction is we are going to see record-high pollen counts this year," said Dr. Philip Hemmers of the Norwalk-based Allergy Center of Connecticut. "We had a lot of rain this winter, and that means we'll have more plant mass this spring." 


The official pollen counter for Fairfield County, Hemmers reports local levels daily to the National Allergy Bureau. 


Still in the early stages of allergy season, Hemmers said he has already recorded levels as high as 1,000 pollen grains per meter cubed. 


"We didn't make it over 600 last year," he said. "We're at least 50 percent higher at this point than we were last year." 


It's enough to bring some to tears. Just ask 24-year-old Laura Cunningham of New Canaan. 


"My eyes get really itchy and puffy, my nose is constantly runny, I can't see, I can't smell," she said. "My allergies got so bad in 2008, that I had trouble breathing and had to go to the hospital. Spring is not my favorite season." 


Cunningham blames the indigenous trees that populate the eastern United States. She's still experimenting with over-the-counter remedies, but plans to start taking allergy shots in the coming weeks. 


"My hope is to be allergy free by next spring," she said. "It's such a beautiful time of year. I can't wait for these shots, so I can actually enjoy it." 


Tree pollen season should subside within a few weeks, but experts say many will continue to suffer because grass and weed allergies rise in the summer months.

Dr. Leonard Bielory, director of the STARx Allergy & Asthma Center in Springfield, N.J., said that allergy seasons have been getting longer over the years. 


"Regionally, we're seeing an increased duration in terms of the pollen season," he said. "Allergy season now starts earlier and ends later, so there have definitely been some changes in the last 15 years."


Bielory suspects the primary culprit is global warming. 


He said his ongoing study -- funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- will show that climate change has contributed to longer allergy seasons and higher pollen levels. 


"That's my belief," said Bielory. "Things are changing, and the climate is the primary variable."


For people with seasonal allergies, Hemmers suggests keeping an eye on pollen levels and scheduling outdoor activities accordingly.


Hemmers says showering after outdoors activities will help rinse allergens from your body.


He said that over-the-counter remedies can work for mild symptoms. Prescriptions and allergy shots should be discussed with your doctor.

January 15

Fireplace safety with allergies

Beware: Your Fireplace Or Wood Burning Stove May Be Harming Your Health

As the holidays near and the air becomes more frigid, families gather around fireplaces and wood-burning stoves seeking warm comfort. Unfortunately for many --- especially those who suffer from asthma and allergies -- the use of such heating devices can trigger health-related disasters in unexpected ways.

Dr. Leonard Bielory, director of the Asthma and Allergy Research Center at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School in Newark, says emergency room visits from asthma attacks quadruple following the fall's first frost. "There are particles and toxic agents emitted by burning wood that, when inhaled, may cause shortness of breath or wheezing and possibly a life-threatening asthma attack that may require emergency health care."

Wood Smoke Break Down

Wood smoke from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves contain fine particles and gases that can pose a serious health threat to you and your family. The smoke emitted from wood burning contains the following:

Fine Particles: These particles are so small that several thousand of them could fit on the period at the end of a sentence. They reach the deepest recesses of the lungs and accelerate hardening of the arteries, negatively affecting heart function.

Nitrogen Dioxide: This odorless gas that can irritate your eyes, nose and throat and cause shortness of breath. In people with asthma, exposure to low levels of NO2 may cause increased bronchial reactivity and make young children more susceptible to respiratory infections. Long-term exposure to high levels of NO2 can lead to chronic bronchitis.

Carbon Monoxide: This odorless, colorless, poisonous gas interferes with the delivery of oxygen throughout the body and may cause headaches, dizziness and, at higher concentrations, death. Those with cardiac and respiratory disease may be more sensitive to lower levels of this gas.

Toxic Compounds: These include such compounds as formaldehyde, benzene, methyl chloride and methyl ethyl ketone (a wide range of compounds that usually have no color, taste or smell.) Some cause direct and negative health effects by penetrating deep into the lungs.

Carbon Dioxide: This greenhouse gas contributes to global climate change.

The above particles found in wood smoke are too small to be filtered by the nose and upper respiratory system, so they end up deep in your lungs. They can remain there for several months causing structural damage and chemical changes to your body without you even being aware.

Not Just Your Household's Health at Risk

If you don't have a fireplace or wood-burning stove at home, don't feel at ease just yet. You're heath still may be at risk ... from your neighbor's fireplaces and wood-burning stoves.

Because wood smoke contains such tiny particles, the smoke is not stopped by closed doors and windows, and seeps into nearby neighbors' houses. In fact, during winter months, wood smoke does not rise and often hangs close to the ground, entering yards, houses, schools, and hospitals. Subsequently, areas with valley locations and poor air circulation are affected most.

A recent University of Washington study in Seattle and an EPA study in Boise, Idaho neighborhoods found that indoor PM10 levels (particulate matter - one of six major air pollutants for which there is a national air quality standard) from wood smoke in homes without wood stoves reach an astonishing 50% to 70% of outdoor levels when burning wood. Neighbors to wood fires may unwillingly be breathing smoky air, even if they are not wood burners.

A Higher Risk for Lung Cancer

According to Medical News Today, "Burning wood may be associated with lung cancer, even with people who do not smoke." Scientists from Mexico gathered blood samples from 62 patients with lung cancer, 9 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and 9 control subjects. Of the patients with lung cancer, 23 were tobacco smokers (37.1 percent), 24 were exposed to wood smoke (38.7 percent), and 15 were not in either category (24.2 percent).

Study results show that 38.7 percent of the patients with lung cancer were nonsmokers who were exposed to continuous wood smoke for over 10 years.

A Few Suggestions

Whether it is to have a nice romantic evening with a loved one, or to warm those toes after playing in the snow, chances are you will find yourself lighting the fireplace or wood stove this winter. And you CAN go ahead and enjoy doing so. But before you do, here are a few suggestions offered by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey that you should follow:

Only use an EPA approved fireplace or wood-burning stove.

Don't allow those with respiratory conditions such as asthma or allergies to be exposed to a fireplace or wood-stove for too long.

Make certain there is adequate ventilation to offset any smoke that is emitted (open windows a crack if need be).

Avoid using a chemical accelerant, like lighter fluid, to ignite the fire.

Properly maintain your fireplace or wood stove.

Have your chimney cleaned annually to help prevent fumes from backing into the house.

Be certain the room is aired out and dust and vacuum the area thoroughly after it has been used.

Don't use a fireplace or wood-burning stove as the only source of heat.

If you use a fireplace or wood-burning stove, or live in an area where neighbor's do, it is also extremely important to keep your home's surfaces like furniture and floors clean to the microscopic level. The fine particles from the smoke settle and then, from walking, sitting down, etc., can be kicked back up into the air.

It is strongly recommended that you DON'T use typical cleaning tools like rags, cotton mops and sponges for cleaning, as they are incapable of effectively removing the fine particles.

PerfectClean ultramicrofiber cleaning tools - including dusters, terry cloths and more - are the ideal solution, as they are constructed of fibers that are just 3 microns in size (even smaller than many bacteria, so highly effective at removing fine particles.) You are strongly encouraged to read about PerfectClean products in this previous article.


Source: Health Guidance

January 14

Ophthalmic preservatives impact

The concept of ophthalmic preservatives impact on the ocular surface has always been a slight quandary since when used normal conjunctival tissue it serves its function with limited adverse effects. However, when applied to inflamed conjunctival surfaces (as seen in various forms of conjunctivitis) their chronic use leads to exacerbations of the underlying inflammatory process including our patients that suffer from allergic conjunctivitis. Recent publications such as the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology have shown that allergic conjunctivitis is entwined with dry eye syndromes (Bielory 2004; Hom, Nguyen et al. 2012)(associated with increase osmolarity – “hyperosmolarity” in the tear film). In addition, the suspicion that ophthalmic preservatives may aggravate ocular symptoms of our patients with allergies besides the possibility of developing an allergic response to them(Hong and Bielory 2009), has been the focus of a recent publication that specifically demonstrated that BAK (benzalkonium chloride), the most common preservative in eye drops, having increased cytotoxic effects in hyperosmotic conditions with cell death processes.  The authors conclude not only that the preservative is known to disrupt the tear film, which would promote both evaporative dry eye and tear hyperosmolarity, but BAK could promote the conditions enhancing it own cytotoxity(Clouzeau, Godefroy et al. 2012).


Bielory, L. (2004). "Ocular allergy and dry eye syndrome." Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol 4(5): 421-424.

Clouzeau, C., D. Godefroy, et al. (2012). "Hyperosmolarity potentiates toxic effects of benzalkonium chloride on conjunctival epithelial cells in vitro." Mol Vis 18: 851-863.

Hom, M. M., A. L. Nguyen, et al. (2012). "Allergic conjunctivitis and dry eye syndrome." Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 108(3): 163-166.

Hong, J. and L. Bielory (2009). "Allergy to ophthalmic preservatives." Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol 9(5): 447-453.


January 13

News Alert (virus)

 The World Health Organization issued a global alert Sunday over a new virus in the same family as the one that caused SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, a decade ago. The new virus has been confirmed in two people, including a man from Saudi Arabia who died and a man from Qatar who recently visited Saudi Arabia and is hospitalized in the United Kingdom. It's too soon to say whether the virus poses any public health threat. The UK's Health Protection Agency says several other cases are under investigation.

January 12

Ancient Herbs

A new discovery about a 2,000-year-old Chinese herbal remedy derived from the roots of the blue evergreen hydrangea may pave the way for a new generation of targeted treatments for autoimmune disorders.

A new study suggests the Chinese herb known as Chang Shan selectively weakens the runaway immune response implicated in many autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and psoriasis.

Researchers say the active ingredient in the Chinese herbal remedy, halofuginone (HF), blocks the development of a harmful type of immune cell called Th17 cells without disabling the immune system altogether.

"HF prevents the autoimmune response without dampening immunity altogether," researcher Malcolm Whitman, PhD, professor of developmental biology at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, says in a news release.

New Discovery About Ancient Herb

Previous studies have shown that halofuginone protects against harmful Th17 cells without affecting other beneficial immune cells in mice.

The new study shows the herbal extract triggers a cascade of events critical to immune regulation by letting cells know when they need to conserve resources.

"Think about how during a power outage we conserve what little juice we have left on our devices, forgoing chats in favor of emergency calls," Whitman says. "Cells use similar logic."

By triggering this response, researchers say halofuginone may also help them understand how the pathway affects autoimmune disorders and lead to better treatments.

"This study is an exciting example of how solving the molecular mechanism of traditional herbal medicine can lead both to new insights into physiological regulation and to novel approaches to the treatment of disease," researcher Tracy Keller, an instructor in Whitman's lab, says in the release.

The results appear in Nature Chemical Biology.

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Location: Springfield, NJ
Today's Date: July 04, 2020
Station Director: Leonard Bielory, M.D
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