According to statistics, about 90 percent of our time is spent indoors. The number could be much higher in recent times due to COVID-19 which has caused many governments around the world to impose lockdowns and forced people, including children, to stay home in order to avoid contracting the virus and halt its spread.
But more worrisome is the fact that these kids are also exposed to other dangers – like the threat from airborne allergen exposure in their early lives.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology defines an allergen as a usually harmless substance capable of triggering a response that starts in the immune system and results in an allergic reaction, like sneezing or itching. For instance, if you have an allergy to pollen, your immune system identifies pollen as an invader or allergen. But the reaction event can turn serious and also be overlooked.
How then does the indoor living environment affect children? A recent study in environmental...
Allergens are all around us. It seems like a fairly straightforward concept, though how they find their way to us can be extremely surprising. Take for example, animal allergens. If you learned that your child had a dog allergy, what steps would you take to avoid issues for them?
The most common response to this would likely be some variation of not having a pet dog and limiting visits to places where dogs live. After all, kids spend most of their time at school or at home so you may think there is little risk of exposure in these controlled environments.
This is, however, not the case. Studies have found that children will be exposed to dog and cat allergens just by attending school. During a 1998 study conducted in a Swedish school it was discovered that allergens were present on the clothes worn by all pet owning students. Despite preventative measures we may take against them, allergens still find a way to infiltrate places we believe are safe.
Allergens are definitely a...
COVID-19 has reshaped how we think about public health and the practical steps we take every day to keep ourselves safe and healthy. Today more than ever, we share a heightened responsibility surrounding our environmental hygiene, as well as the potential harm that poor cleaning habits can cause.
Something we encounter every day is dust. It’s synonymous with being untidy, old, and causing us to sneeze. But perhaps in our post-COVID world, we will see dust a little differently.
Dust is an organic material, a combination of microbial vegetable or animal materials. Often, household dust is comprised of skin cells from human inhabitants and pets. As it is biological, dust can contain viruses, bacteria, fungi, algae, insects, mites, and even antibiotics. Moreover, dust contributes to bioaerosols, which when disturbed, become airborne and can cause respiratory issues. This forms part of the background bioburden to the home and the subsequent risks from...
Bathtime wouldn’t be the same without a rubber duck. For children, and maybe some adults too, the main attraction of a scrub in the tub is the chance to play with rubber or plastic bath toys, watching them bob amongst the bubbles and submerge amongst the suds. But beneath the cheery exterior of bright wide eyes and chirpy beak exists a hidden danger - one that could make you or your children very unwell.
The best way to investigate this is to chop them open (sorry, ducky), revealing the microbial growths that manifest inside. The initial findings are startling, showing a significant build-up of dark, murky slime, known as a biofilm. Biofilms are, in fact, a whole host of different microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi and moulds, that stick to each other and form a slimy substance to help them survive and multiply.
What’s shocking is that this is not just a one-off or a particularly old toy. Research found that 70% of bath toys contained the same black, slimy...
Pathogen. Germ. Bug. Infection. Virus. Plague. Today, more than ever, it seems like we are constantly surrounded by an invisible world of hidden dangers. These words are synonymous with our times, but we are not the first generation who have had to contend with a dangerous pathogen. So, what is a pathogen, and how has history shaped the relationship between them and humans?
Pathogens, defined as an organism that causes a disease to its host, are spread across our planet on an unbelievably vast scope. They occupy every known environment, from nuclear waste sites to rocks buried thousands of metres beneath the surface of the Earth. Moreover, they are numerous as well as widespread. Scientists estimate the number of viruses on earth to be about 1031. That’s 10 billion times the number of stars in the universe.
For over 1.5 billion years, viruses and other microorganisms have been seeking biological hosts in which they can manifest, and humans have been in an evolutionary...
Severe weather is becoming increasingly common as the effects of climate change bring wetter and warmer summers, along with more freak events such as cyclones and flash flooding. In Australia, the effects of El Niño and La Niña are a combination of ocean and atmosphere frictions. Amidst this, properties are at risk of costly damage, yet it may not be a monsoon or lightning that causes you or your property harm - it could well be mould.
Water damage and the potential for subsequent mould is something that many of us have had to deal with at one time or another, but water damage from a storm or flooding raises a whole host of additional problems. Primarily, the source of the water can determine how much of a health risk the mould can pose to us.
Category 1 water is clean, such as from a leaky pipe or overflowing bathtub. It is unlikely to produce unexpected mould growth, however the longer it is left untreated, the higher the risk becomes.
“It's often said that a bad day with coffee is better than a good day without.” A fair statement, no? If you asked any of the drinkers of the 2.25 billion cups of coffee drunk daily, they’d probably all give you a similar answer. Some research suggests that coffee may even have some positive health benefits. But this uniquity of caffeine consumption raises some serious questions about the damaging effects our coffee habits are having on the planet.
Let’s begin on a positive note: A research paper from April 2020 reviewed randomized clinical trials and other observational studies to show that coffee can reduce the risk of type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease, as well as several forms of cancer. So perhaps you are inadvertently protecting yourself from some harmful conditions each time you pop into your local cafe.
Sadly, the positivity ends there. Our growing demand for coffee presents us with a multitude of issues, many of which require urgent action.
When we see mould on our food our immediate reaction is to throw it away. To us, it is an indication that the food has turned bad, and we assume that food would not taste the same because fermentation has started. Along with this, we begin to question the texture, aroma and appearance of the food.
However, we sometimes see mould as a delicious component of some of our favourite indulgences.
Mould is, of course, responsible for the speckles within blue cheese and it’s characteristic saltiness and sharpness. It is caused by the cultivation of Penicillium roqueforti and Penicillium glaucum during the oxygenation of the cheese.
Mould can be seriously harmful to us, especially to those who suffer from an allergy to it, so is there a heightened risk from eating blue cheese?
We know that allergies and immune responses are influenced by our environmental exposures in our early life. In fact, eating cheese at 18 months of age shows a protective effect especially for eczema and...
We all know about the devastating effects that change in our climate will cause, from melting ice caps, rising sea levels and more extreme weather. But there is another risk too, and one that could potentially affect all of us in the way we build and look after our homes, and how we try to save the ones at risk.
One of the consequences of climate change that we are already seeing, and bearing witness to its effects, is changes in our weather. Namely, we are experiencing warmer and wetter winters along with warmer and drier summers. Amidst the plethora of changes this will cause, scientists are concerned about an increase in the severity of microbiological attacks of exposed timbers. This means that any type of wood used in construction could be more at risk to decay from mould and wood-rot fungi.
Scientists use something called the Scheffer Climate Index to monitor temperature and rain variables, which can be used to indicate how preferable the conditions are for harmful mould and...
Sometimes, it seems like the hardest thing in the world to do is to get to sleep. Be it struggling to drift off, tossing and turning in the early hours or waking up too early and not being able to get any more shuteye - it’s something we’ve all had to deal with at one point or another.
George Clooney blames his insomnia on a racing mind, helped only by going to sleep with the TV on, whilst Lady Gaga’s fibromyalgia and PTSD are both conditions known to negatively affect a person’s sleep. On the other hand, Rihanna’s reported ‘3 to 4 hours of sleep’ is self-inflicted, with the popstar admitting to binge-watching TV late at night.
A 2016 Centre for Disease Control report concluded that sleep problems, including insomnia, sharply increases the risk of heart attacks, cancer, and obesity. Moreover, insomniacs are far more likely to suffer from mental health issues like depression as well as being linked to all major psychological...