David Frome took part in Leslie Reichert’s radio interview on Back to School & Clean Air. Here is a quick summary of the points discussed and you can click on the radio icon below to listen to the complete interview.
An introduction to air quality problems
Progressively our culture is paying a lot of attention to clean water supply. We also do not want chemicals in our food. Indoor air quality as a health issue has not received much attention.
Typically, we usually know when we have a cold. We know when we have the flu or if we have a fever. But, we do not necessarily know when we have allergies or chemical sensitivities. Many people who have a post nasal drip or a runny nose often think, “I have a cold”. What they don’t realize is that they might be experiencing allergies.
Q. What are some of the things that kids might be exposed to in the school system that they don’t see during summer?
There are different issues at play. In newer buildings, there is very little air exchange from outside air. If you have any chemicals inside the school (from cleaning products, building materials, paint, floor polish, and other everyday products), these VOCs stay in the air and we are breathing them.
In older buildings, there are often molds – from a roof leak or other water related issues. Molds are one of the most virulent kinds of problems. We breathe the mycotoxins from molds, which are actual poisons that can affect the central nervous system and the respiratory system.
There could be 100 children that are exposed to the same substances, maybe only one or two will become sick because of it. This makes environmental illness a very tricky problem to see. It sneaks beneath the radar and we blame other things for the child’s ill health.
Q. My child has allergies and we usually give him Claritin though, I hate giving him drugs. The pharmacist said that you become immune to Claritin. But that’s crazy!
This is a classic scenario for any anti histamine. If you use an anti-histamine for a long time, eventually it will stop working.
In terms of respiratory allergies and multiple chemical sensitivities, prevention is better than cure. If you are able to breathe clean air, your immune system can recover and will be less dependent on drugs. If you strengthen the immune system with acupuncture, you need fewer drugs.
Q. It’s 8’o clock in the morning and my child is showing symptoms of allergies. What do I do?
Anti-histamines are not a good long-term solution. We need to find a more holistic solution. Instead, you could track & journal your child’s reactions at home, at school and in other environments such as departmental store or malls.
Beyond the common allergic rhinitis symptoms, watch their appearance (color), watch their behavior, and also observe other subtler things – what does the handwriting look like when the child has been in different environments? Look at your child’s drawings. Do the illustrations have the same quality at home and at school? Also, try to see how well are they able to concentrate and learn in different environments.
It is important to observe your child’s behavior in places such as malls since these places have very little air exchange and very little filtration of air. We are breathing the same air and its being shared by many people. Additionally, merchandise including clothes, rugs and mattresses are often treated with formaldehyde. So, whatever is in the air stays in the air.
Our lungs are a perfect place to absorb these chemicals, particles & microbes. The surface area in the inside of the lung is as big as a tennis court. If you were to spread out the alveolar cells that exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide in our body, they have the surface area of a tennis court.
Q. When going back to school, we never think of the backpack, the tennis shoes, or the formaldehyde and chemicals from the cleaning products that children are exposed to. And, we expect them to be alert!
Chemicals in vinyl are not so good for you to breathe – yet they are in our clothing and accessories. We know that chlorine used in cleaning products breaks down into carcinogens. There is an erroneous belief that the government protects us from toxic chemicals. The FDA only controls food & drugs, they do not control most of the 100,000 + chemicals produced in the country.
Q. What can we do to help our kids thorough this?
Once you have figured out what environment is problematic, and then you need to identify what product is causing the reaction. Check if the area has been newly painted, or if there is a new construction. What cleaning products are being used in the school? Once you have figured out what your child is reacting to, you need to get the school on board to address the issue.
Some problems are more challenging to control. If your child is allergic to pollen, we cannot stop it. However, we can control the indoor environment. This is where air filters work well. You need a good quality HEPA air cleaner. HEPA media is the highest standard of air filtration – it removes dust, germs, pollen, mold spores, mycotoxins and other pathogens from the air.
You also need a very good carbon filter to remove chemicals and VOCs from the air. The carbon absorbs the chemicals and functions like a sponge – it grabs them and they stay trapped in the filter. The air cleaner should also have a very powerful motor.
David Frome, physical therapist and acupuncturist is a recognized leader in the field of environmental health in the tri-state region. He is on a mission to help other people improve their lives by improving the quality of their indoor air. His company, The Air Cleaner Store offers high quality air cleaning solutions including the Austin Air HealthMate Plus. For more information, contact 973.820.8719 or email us at david [at] theaircleanerstore.com.