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By Cosby Stone

Whenever I am asked what I do for a living, the phrase "I'm an allergist" is almost immediately followed by "So, where are all of these allergies coming from?"

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By Kara Wada

Blooming spring flowers signal the beginning of spring, but for millions of people, they also signal the onset of the misery: allergy and asthma season. Itchy, watery eyes; sneezing, runny nose; cough and wheezing are triggered by an overreaction of the body to pollen.

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Ambrosia artemisiifolia, common ragweed. PLOS ONE

By Marlene Cimons

Cristina Stinson never had an allergic reaction to ragweed until after she started working with it. "I think the repeated exposure to the pollen is what did it," she said. It also didn't help that her community is chock-full of it. "There is plenty of ragweed in my neighborhood," she said. "In fact, it grows right outside my door."

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A video posted to Facebook on Monday, in which a tree tapped by a frontloader releases a massive cloud of pollen, has gone viral, resonating with viewers in what experts say is an especially bad allergy season, partly because of climate change.

The video was taken by Eric Henderson of Millville, New Jersey, who drove the frontloader that released the pollen cloud, ABC News reported Wednesday. His wife, Jennifer, posted it on Facebook, where it has gotten more than five million views.

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By Bill Gottlieb

More than 24 million American children and adults suffer from asthma, which is when the respiratory "pipes" (bronchi) that carry air in and out of the lungs are inflamed and spasm. And every year, the disease sends more than 1.8 million people to the hospital, killing nearly 4,000 with severe, choking asthma attacks.

Fifty percent of people with asthma have attacks triggered by allergens, such as molds, dust mites and animal dander. Of course, you can have allergies without asthma. You can have hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis), which is when your immune system mistakes pollen from grass, trees or weeds for a foreign invader and revs up its defenses, triggering sneezing, red and itchy eyes, a stuffed and runny nose, and fatigue.

But whether you have asthma or asthma and allergies or just allergies, you may have noticed your condition is getting worse. The rates of asthma have increased over the past 25 years—the number of people with asthma has increased fourfold and the number of deaths from asthma attacks has doubled. And people with hay fever are noticing that every allergy season seems like the worst ever.

What's happening? Many studies show the increase in allergies could be due to changes in the environment. This slideshow shows six reasons why more people might be feeling the affects of allergies:

Climate Change

Antibacterial Chemicals

BPA

Cleaning Products

Vinyl Flooring

The Preservative in Pre-Moistened Wipes


Adapted from Health-Defense.

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Rodale Wellness.

Two days ago, I put my son Conor on an airplane to Europe. Conor has anaphylactic peanut allergies so, before he left, we purchased a new EpiPen for the trip. We both got sticker shock.

Ten years ago, I was paying a $12 co-pay for each EpiPen I purchased. In 2007, the wholesale price for an EpiPen in the U.S. was around $57 and our insurance company paid everything but the co-pay. This week, I learned that the wholesale price was now $600 for a two pack, which is the smallest quantity available for purchase. We paid the $600. EpiPens have saved Conor's life more than once.

A Senate committee has asked the pharmaceutical company Mylan to appear before Congress to explain the company's 400 percent price hike for this life-saving device. The company's CEO, Heather Bresch, the daughter of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, will be on the hot seat. She is a greedy, malicious scoundrel and it's my hope that the senators who question her will not give her kid glove comity just because she is kin to a colleague.

Mylan raised its prices because it could get away with the scam. Its only U.S. competitor, Sanofi, abandoned the American market in 2015. In Canada, EpiPen's still cost around US$100. In Europe there are four manufacturers and the prices are still lower.

Children in anaphylactic shock often need two doses of epinephrine. Following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recommendations, my doctor suggested that we always keep two EpiPen's at home, two at school and two in our automobile. Each EpiPen expires after one year, so Mylan's price hike represents an $1,800 annual recurring cost for the families of the 15 million Americans with allergies.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, food allergies are responsible for more than 300,000 ambulatory-care visits a year in children under 18. About 200 children die. Bresch's greed is likely to cost the lives of many more.

"I regularly write notes to the families of children who have died from anaphylaxis after inadvertently eating peanuts," said Dr. James R. Baker, CEO of FARE: Food Allergy Research & Education. "One death is too many."

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By Minda Berbeco

Have your eyes been running more in the spring? Are you sneezing more in the fall?

After this frigid and snowy winter, it may be hard to remember what the allergy season feels like. But if you‘re one of the more than 80 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, you might recall that last year’s allergy season was a doozy in many parts of the U.S. 

To those who suffer from seasonal allergies, these questions only bring more concerns. Rather than worry, though, perhaps we could start to plan ahead to reduce carbon emissions.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

And it turns out that people might at least be partially responsible for a more allergenic environment. As we change the climate, many of the plants that terrorize us through the allergy season are becoming more pernicious. While a warming climate lengthens the pollen season, increased carbon dioxide is making some allergens more noxious.

This change is most obvious with the troublesome ragweed plants, which are the curse of many allergy sufferers. A group of flowering plants found all over the U.S., the hardy ragweed loves a disturbed environment. It pops up along roadways and at the edges of agricultural fields, colonizing abandoned lots. Ragweed is common enough that you most certainly have seen it before, and it is highly likely that a ragweed plant’s pollen has made you or a loved one sneeze at least once. 

Ragweed pollen is one of the largest causes of allergic rhinitis—also known as hay fever—the sneezy, runny nose reaction many people are familiar with.

Unlike many other plants, ragweed doesn’t ring in the spring with large flowering blooms. Rather, it flowers in the late summer, releasing pollen just in time for a congested fall. Normally this plant is trouble enough, having a pollen season that can last between two and three months. Now, with a longer-frost free season (the amount of time between the spring thaw and fall freeze) due to a warming climate, the ragweed plant has a longer time period to get larger and hardier to produce more pollen. 

A longer growing season is only one part of the problem. Ragweed also responds positively to increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide levels before the Industrial Revolution were about 280 parts per million. With the increase in emissions through the burning or fossil fuels and other human activities, those levels have recently reached 400 parts per million.

Research has demonstrated that plants grown in pre-industrial CO2 concentrations produced less pollen than those grown in current levels. Worse yet, when these plants were grown in concentrations predicted for the future, pollen levels continued to go up. For those of us with ragweed allergies, this is not good news.

Those who are familiar with allergens, though, know that it’s not just how large the plant is, or even how much pollen it’s producing that can increase the risk of an allergic reaction. There’s also the potency of the pollen itself—the amount of allergen in the pollen. It turns out that ragweed plants grown in higher CO2 environments carry more allergens in the pollen.

Larger plants, creating more pollen, means more allergies. Sounds like a terrific future. But of course, it’s not the future, it’s occurring right now. How do your sinuses feel at the thought of that?

These findings are not unique to ragweed plants. Poison ivy, the bane of hikers everywhere, is looking like it might also prosper in a higher CO2 environment. Researchers have found that when grown under high CO2 conditions, poison ivy became larger and produced a more allergenic form of urushiol, the active compound that leads to the red itchy rash everyone is familiar with.

Given how important environmental factors like temperature, rainfall and CO2 levels are to all ecosystems, the question remains how other allergenic plants will be impacted by a changing climate. As flowers bloom earlier, with a longer growing season, should we start expecting spring allergies to arrive weeks sooner? Could a longer frost-free season lead to extended allergy seasons for people throughout the year? How will these types of climatic changes affect other allergenic organisms such as molds? 

To those who suffer from seasonal allergies, these questions only bring more concerns. Rather than worry, though, perhaps we could start to plan ahead. We could work to reduce our carbon emissions to help future generations suffer less. We could create management plans to reduce the spread of allergenic plants.

Or, we could take a financial approach and start investing in Benadryl futures. Unfortunately, with the way carbon pollution regulations are going so far, the latter might be the most prudent approach.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE and HEALTH page for more related news on this topic.

 

Ever wonder about chemicals in your day-to-day life?

"What’s in the air I breathe? The water I drink? The food I eat? Even the things I put on my skin?"

Ed Brown wondered these same things after his wife suffered two miscarriages (they now have two beautiful children). But instead of just wondering, he traveled around the country with his video camera to interview top minds in the fields of science, advocacy and law and learned there are unacceptable levels of chemicals in so many things. Including our bodies.

Brown’s documentary, Unacceptable Levels, dissects the ways chemicals saturate our homes and environment amid the backdrop of a glaring lack of regulation. It chronicles the results of the post-World War II chemical boom and details common avenues of exposure, from food to fluoride to toxic sludge.

Some "unacceptable facts" from the film:

  • Autism now affects one in 50 children.
  • Cancer is the leading cause of death (after accidents) in children younger than 15 years in the U.S.
  • In the last 20 years, the rates of asthma, allergies and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are on the rise: 400 percent increase in allergies, 300 percent increase in asthma, 400 percent increase in ADHD.
  • $2.6 trillion of the Gross Domestic Product is spent on treating disease every year.
  • Approximately 200 synthetic industrial chemicals interact with our cells every single day.

Brown is touring the country this summer, which started with a premiere June 12 in Hollywood, CA, where he was joined by Mariel Hemingway, Gary Hirschberg, Christopher Gavigan and other passionate environmentalists to inspire others to take action.

Actress Jessica Capshaw Gavigan, who is also part of the Moms Clean Air Force Leadership Circle, has this to say about the film:

This film is a huge eye-opener! Once a parent sees this, they thankfully won’t ever approach their child’s health and future the same way ever again!

Visit the Unacceptable Levels website for a growing list of screenings.

Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH and FOOD pages for more related news on this topic.

 

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