Autism rate is increasing at a rate faster than evolution can explain

The rate of autism in the 1970s was around 1 child in 10000. Prior to  the 1930s the disease was barely heard of and only a few children, fewer than ten, had even been documented in psychiatric medical records as having any symptoms similar to the autism spectrum symptoms. (Denial/Blaxill, Olmsted)

Around 1999 to 2000 there was a sharp increase in the rate of autism diagnosed. Changes in awareness and/or diagnosis criteria may have some impact on short term changes but the increase in rate from the 1970s is significant. Extrapolating into the future following the recent rate of change in the rate of children diagnosed with autism takes us to an estimated rate of 1 in 34 children in the year 2042. We all need to ask ourselves if now is a better time to try to prevent autism from occurring in our nation’s children or if we should wait until 2042. There are multiple risk factors including specific timing during the infant’s prenatal development, exposure to certain toxins, and nutrient deficiency and/or genetic susceptibility – complex, yes, but complex just takes a little more work to handle.

Autism Rate, U.S., Actual : 1970s-2018, Extrapolated from 2018 to 2042
U.S. Autism Rate Soars to 1 in 59 Children, SafeMinds.org

Improved screening for risk factors of mothers during perinatal and prenatal care and screening of infants and toddlers before symptoms occur could help provide individualized guidance to help reduce known risk factors associated with increased risk of developing autism.

This series of pages titled as Step 1, Step 2, etc. is a draft of steps for how to prevent autism or other chronic illnesses:

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Revisiting superstition from the perspective of economics

What do imaginary goods, virtual cats and superstition have to do with each other? – Economics. ‘Imaginary goods’ is a term used by an Austrian economic theorist from the 1800’s, Carl Menger, to describe goods that might be sold but which did not meet all the criteria of a ‘goods‘ – a thing of value which could be sold or purchased. Imaginary goods could also be sold but they did not meet all of his criteria for ‘goods‘ because their value was more transient – in the imagination of the buyer and/or seller rather than clearly apparent to any normal consumer of goods.  (Principles of Economics, by Carl Menger, a translation in English)

As I’ve been working on devising ways to make pomegranate peel edible I’ve been thinking about the idea of a market or demand for a good versus the actual value of the good. You can’t sell something of value if no one considers it valuable even if it fits the criteria of being ‘goods‘ – fulfilling human needs; while it recently was brought to my attention, a refresher course having grown up in era of ‘Pet Rocks,” that some people will pay for anything if it is popular – if other people are bidding on the item too. I was astonished as a child that anyone would pay real money for a rock in a box just because it was called a ‘Pet Rock‘ – just go outside, find a rock, stick it in a box – there you go, your very own ‘pet rock’ captured from its wilderness and tamed for your own enjoyment. The current trend that was brought to my attention is less solid but requires an imagination – virtual cats, bred to have unique characteristics, the bidding is based on the uniqueness of the characteristics (investopedia.com) – my thought, too much time or too much money, and too little space for a real pet cat.

People need love and affection as it promotes oxytocin and dopamine which are hormones that promote positive feelings.

For those with limited room in their lives for an expensive virtual cat, consider going outside and looking for a wild rock to tame instead.

Bringing this back around to the New Year’s Day topic of good luck black-eyed peas and the following day’s topic of superstition – Carl Menger includes in his examples of imaginary goods items that might be considered good luck charms and also medications that aren’t effective.

Pomegranate peel might be effective but until there is proof that it is effective there might not be a market of consumers willing to pay for it let alone even try it. So Master Chef Challenge – Pomegranate Peel -> make it appetizing and if people also feel good after eating it then they will return for seconds -> thus creating a market that hadn’t previously been known.

Carl Menger’s four criteria for what makes something a consumer ‘good’:

“If a thing is to become a good, or in other words, if it is to
acquire goods-character, all four of the following prerequisites
must be simultaneously present:

  1. A human need.
  2. Such properties as render the thing capable of being brought
    into a causal connection with the satisfaction of this need.
  3. Human knowledge of this causal connection.
  4. Command of the thing sufficient to direct it to the satisfaction
    of the need.” page 52 (Principles of Economics, by Carl Menger, a translation in English)

According to his theory something can lose its value as a consumer good if it stops fulfilling any one of those four criteria, to paraphrase – if we 1: stop needing it because the problem it solved no longer exists, 2: the thing no longer works to solve the original problem  3: we forget that the thing is useful for fulfilling the need, 4: the thing is no longer something humans have access to (the WiFi goes out and the virtual cat breeding stops functioning) :

“Hence a thing loses its goods-character: (1) if, owing to a
change in human needs, the particular needs disappear that the thing is capable of satisfying, (2) whenever the capacity of the
thing to be placed in a causal connection with the satisfaction of
human needs is lost as the result of a change in its own properties,
(3) if knowledge of the causal connection between the thing and
the satisfaction of human needs disappears, or (4) if men lose
command of it so completely that they can no longer apply it
directly to the satisfaction of their needs and have no means of
reestablishing their power to do so.” -pages 52-53 (Principles of Economics, by Carl Menger, a translation in English)

So for those who may have forgotten (reason #3), – caring for living people or pets can help one’s own health through increased oxytocin, dopamine and reduced oxidative stress. If owning a real pet is not possible due to housing issues visiting a local Humane Society type agency and volunteering to help care for the shelter animals is generally possible and appreciated. If money isn’t a problem hiring a human for a service that involves touch such as a manicure is helping others by providing money for jobs and providing oxidative stress reducing touch from the hands-on service. If owning a real pet or hiring human hands-on service isn’t possible than oxytocin, dopamine and possibly even reduction in oxidative stress may be provided by a caring relationship with a houseplant that cleans the air of toxins (ferns and other types), or by enjoying looking at art objects that have to do with nature or possible the touch of a smooth natural object such as a rock or crystal or wooden object.

While my search of oxidative stress and art didn’t turn up the link I was looking for it did find a review of research on male infertility, oxidative stress, antioxidants (vitamin E, C and CoQ10) and ART, assisted reproductive techniques, while it doesn’t mention iodine it’s worth saving for reference and smoking is mentioned as risk: http://ccf.org/reproductiveresearchcenter/docs/agradoc261.pdf

Smoking increases intake of formaldehyde as well as other toxins. There are also other common sources of formaldehyde in modern living environments. Tips for reducing risk of formaldehyde exposure and links for the houseplants that help detoxify indoor air from formaldehyde and other common volatile chemicals are included in an older post, Formaldehyde (volatile – chemicals that might be easily released from plastics or carpets into the air – ie “new car smell”).

The topic on nature and art and oxidative stress is discussed with links in the section Art – Food for the Eyes on another website, effectivecare.info, 10. food Helps Too.

Returning to the Master Chef Challenge – Pomegranate Peel,  – it is helping my mood and health more consistently than the 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds did but it is quite acidic. I’ve taken to using a couple spoonfuls in my bean soup instead of the lime juice or apple cider vinegar that I had been adding as a digestive aid. I’ve also tried it on salads in place of lime juice.

As a beverage I occasionally have the original blend of approximately 3 ounces of the pomegranate extract/soup stock with about 3 ounces of water and 1 ounce of cherry juice with four pinches of Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate) to make it less acidic. Sugar is inflammatory in itself so I’v stopped using much of it. After the review of the blueberry/rhubarb jam recipe I bought some blueberries and will try a combination of the pomegranate extract with the less acidic fruit. Cherry juice is also acidic. Blueberry juice concentrate is available in specialty stores but I wasn’t at one.  The Baking Soda may be too much sodium or something in the pomegranate extract or the level of acidity it adds to the diet may have a diuretic effect like coffee – so like many things in life – it’s not perfect. But being sick isn’t either.

When you start thinking about food as fuel and as your body’s natural medicine cabinet then taste is something that can be acquired and adapted to suit the needs of health – but first the mind has to overpower the habit of “I always eat what my family ate, or what I got used to at college, or whatever my friends are eating.” Social settings and food are very strongly linked and it can be viewed as rude to refuse an offer of food that is being offered – sometimes life isn’t perfect either.

Good luck and best wishes all you Master Chefs out in virtual reader land – I know you can take on whatever culinary challenges you choose.

If at the beginning of 2017 someone predicted that I would successfully be using pomegranate peel, baker’s cocoa, cardamom, and leafy green herbs and vegetables instead of medical marijuana for my autoimmune health condition I might have thought they were imagining things – but Carl Menger was right we have to know the causal connection between a good and a problem it might solve before we go to the effort to purchase, prepare, and use the good for solving that problem/need (health care improvement in my case). pages 51-58, (Principles of Economics, by Carl Menger, a translation in English).

A tastes better than it looks salad – Blueberry Pomegranate Avocado Quinoa Salad.

Bring two and a half cups of water to a boil and add one cup quinoa (or amaranth or cracked wheat for a more traditional tabouli like salad). Cook for twenty minutes at a simmer. Stir occasionally to keep it from sticking to the saucepan. Once the water is fully absorbed remove the pan from the heat and add about (all of the following ingredients are estimates except for the avocado- this is a first try) one tablespoon coconut oil and stir into the hot cooked cereal. Add about one cup of frozen or fresh blueberries, 1/2 cup frozen or fresh pomegranate seeds, 1/4 cup pomegranate peel extract, one chopped ripe avocado, one tablespoon dried tarragon and one tablespoon dried basil (or more if fresh is available), and 1/4 cup chopped walnuts. Stir the mixture thoroughly. The cereal will turn purplish color from the blueberries. Serve a cup or so of the mixture over a plate of chopped salad greens and top with a pretty 1/8th cup of fresh or frozen pomegranate seeds.

I always add salt to taste at the table. We taste only the salt on the surface of food, not what has been cooked into a food or stirred into a mixture as much.

The flavors and textures work well together, sweet and tanginess from the fruit, creaminess from the avocado, quinoa and coconut oil. Tarragon adds flavor, the basil is milder and wasn’t noticeable in the amount I added here. Tarragon has a slightly minty flavor. The walnut is a stronger flavor and the crunch and flavor balance with the flavor of the blueberries and crunch of the pomegranate seeds. This was a success flavor and texture-wise no matter what it looks like and it would be nutritionally balanced with protein, essential fats and carbohydrates and plenty of fiber and trace nutrients and antioxidants. Walnuts and blueberries have both been found effective for cardiovascular health and male health issues.

Blueberry Pomegranate Avocado Quinoa Salad
Blueberry Pomegranate Avocado Quinoa Salad.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

G3.6: Antihistamines may help if there is a genetic tendency to overproduce histamine.

Genetic differences in more than 70 genes have been associated with increased itchiness, see summary at the end of this section. (G3.24) Calcium and serotonin levels may be involved in increased itch or arthritis pain signals being sent or perceived. (G3.25) Scratching an itch is considered rude and a chronic itch is often considered funny however it isn’t fun.

Some background information:

Too much or too little calcium and magnesium can affect pain, itching, and mood. The minerals are both electrically active, and provide energy for ion channels which control the transport of messenger chemicals like serotonin across cell membranes – such as nerve cell membranes which might feel like a sensation of itchiness or pain.     

Excess serotonin may be involved, (G3.26, G3.27), and scratching an itch can make the urge to scratch more intense, even worse afterwards, even though there may be a temporary feeling of relief while scratching. (G3.28) Adequate magnesium is essential for reducing pain in arthritis or at least may help reduce pain levels. (G3.27) An antihistamine may help for some types of itching related to genetic conditions. (G3.29)

Excess dopamine levels can also be a cause of an overwhelming urge to scratch – see “grooming behavior” in section 7. When to Report?. The solution there is to figure out why dopamine levels are that elevated. Elevated dopamine can be a symptom of hyperthyroidism but it can also be associated with other conditions.

  • An Itch You Just Can’t Scratch; NIH-funded study identifies proteins that may cause chronic itch. Summary points: The HTR7 gene was found most closely associated with chronic itch in an animal based study, however over 70 genes were found to be more expressed, more active in lab animals with chronic itch. The gene expression of the HTR7 gene was most active in the mice with the worst symptoms of scratching compared to the mice with the least sensitivity. The activity of the TRP1 receptor was also increased in animals with more symptoms. (G.24)
  • Transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1) receptor is involved in chronic arthritis: in vivo study using TRPA1-deficient mice. Summary points: The TRPA1 receptor is directly activated by calcium levels inside of the cell, and a variety of toxins or “noxious” (irritating) substances that are produced as a normal part of “oxidative stress” otherwise known as “inflammation” including, “4-hydroxy-2-nonenal, hydrogen peroxide, hypochloride, hydrogen sulphide, 15-delta prostaglandin J2 [2528].” and irritants from the environment or diet can also activate the TRPA1 receptor, *1.mustard oil (allyl isothiocyanate: AITC) [29], *2. cinnamaldehyde [30, 31], *3. allicin [32, 33] and *4. formalin [34]…”. (G3.25) Serotonin and other “Inflammatory mediators, such as bradykinin…[19, 35]” (G3.25) can make the receptors more sensitive which can lead to increased responsiveness of nerve endings – more pain (G3.25) or itch. (G3.24) *See the next section for more information about the chemicals in bold font and where they may be found in the diet or environment.

*People with overactive TRPA1 channels may be sensitive to:

  1. Mustard:  “mustard oil”
  2. Cinnamon:  “cinnamaldehyde'” (G3.43) );
  3. Onion or Garlic:allicin,” (G3.41)
  4. Formaldehyde:formalin,” chemically the two are very similar: (G3.42) and formaldehyde is found in the environmental and as a metabolite of some alternative sweeteners and other dietary sources. (G3.56) Environmental sources include which would include first and second hand smoke, poorly ventilated air or smog, especially when there is brand new flooring or other new plastic or vinyl  material in the living area, it  can release volatile chemicals including formaldehyde at levels that can make a sensitive person feel ill. Metabolites of the breakdown of the alternative sweetener aspartame and Neotame include menthol and formaldehyde. (G3.44) Older packages of fruit juice also may contain increasing amounts of formaldehyde as the product ages, more of the chemical is produced from other chemicals.

Magnesium, Opioids, and Neuropathic Pain.

This list and this section got much longer actually, and eventually led me back to a topic I’ve written about in 2011, and which is one of the underlying causes of overactive TRP channels. Fortunately it also has a simple solution, (G3.101), but – unfortunately – it is so simple a solution that it isn’t profitable – unfortunately for individual patient’s health and quality of life and unfortunately for the economic health of individuals and nations and businesses who are being overcharged by the medical industry for healthcare that isn’t always effective and sometimes causes harm.

It is so effective a solution for improving mood and pain and muscle cramp type symptoms that I’ve been sharing the information online since at least 2011 and the article I shared was research from 2009, (G3.101), – so the clock is ticking on how soon the evidence based medical research will reach the individual patient who is in pain. The racers at the starting line are the physicians and nurse practitioners and other health professionals who make recommendations for opioid medications in an attempt to block pain instead of trying to find and resolve the cause of the pain.

What is a nerve signal? “Pain” or “no pain”? or “on” and “off”?
Pain, however, should not just be blocked without trying to understand the cause. It is a message from the body desperately asking for help but it is not always a clear message. Pain in one area of the body may have to do with an issue in another area of the body. Instead of blocking the pain signals we need to listen to them more carefully and try to figure out what the pain signals mean and how to resolve the underlying cause of the pain. Something might be missing and need to be added back into the diet or something might be happening in excess either in the diet or lifestyle habits and need to be stopped or moderated.

Nerve signals are not specific to send the brain a message of “pain” that exclusively means “pain;” a nerve signal is more of an “on” or “off” and might indicate a variety of extremes: too hot or too cold, or too rough or too light (ticklish), or too hot peppery, (capsaicin, (G3.100), more on that later), or too mustard oily. The nerve signal is simply telling the brain that “something” happened – figure it out captain of the ship – and fix it – such as remembering to wear gardening gloves before handling wild mustard weeds, especially if you have diabetic hypersensitivity.

The TRP channels are the bridge between the world and the nerve signal. There are many types and they can respond to specific temperatures, so some might activate when it is very cold and some might activate when it is very hot. Some might react to the hot pepper and some might react to the mustard oil. They would all tell the same nerve – “something” extreme happened.

Mustard oil can cause an extremely itchy reaction. It is used to induce “hypersensitivity” in lab animals to study the condition in relation to diabetic hypersensitivity. This will be discussed in the next section in more detail. (G3.96) Wearing gloves may be advisable when pulling a patch of wild mustard if you tend to have sensitive skin or allergic reactions.  (p124, G3.97)

Antihistamines taken daily can be helpful if excess histidine is a problem.

Antihistamines taken as a daily precaution may be helpful for people with overly sensitive skin if the sensitivity is related to a tendency to overproduce histidine. (G3.29) If that is an issue, then taking an antihistamine medication daily may also help for some types of chronic pain as well, more will be included in the next section. Acupuncture is a traditional therapy that may help reduce the overactivity of TRPV channels and reduce the production of the inflammatory peptide Substance P and other cytokines. Acupuncture can affect both the opioid and the cannabinoid receptors – but without needing the prescription or having to experience the side effects! (G3.104)

See a healthcare provider for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert)

References:

Formaldehyde: Health risks, and Environmental and Dietary sources.

I mentioned in my last post, (a long time ago – I’ve been busy spring cleaning), that I would discuss oxidative stress next – some background information first:

(“Formaldehyde is a cause of oxidative stress.” LMGTFY: 1,450,000 results.)

Formaldehyde:  formaldehyde is a chemical that can be produced within the body as part of metabolism, it is toxic however and the body would continue to break it down further for removal from the body in conditions of normal health. Formaldehyde is found in the environment from a variety of sources and is produced in the body or in food products as a metabolite (a chemical produced from the digestion/metabolism of a larger chemical) of some alternative sweeteners (G.48) and other dietary sources including fruit juices and artificial and natural flavorings. ((G.49, (p476, G.50)) (G.56)  “Formalin” is chemically very similar and may cause similar health symptoms. (G.42(G.25Formalin is used to induce pain in lab animals for experimental purposes and it was determined that the pain was due to activation of the TRPA1 channels. (G.86)

Environmental and dietary sources of formaldehyde include, (G.56):

  1. First and second hand smoke, (G.44); The formaldehyde content of some types of E-Cigarette preparations used for “vaping” instead of smoking the volatile gases have been found to vary significantly. Skipping to the last point on this list may provide the explanation – fruit flavoring based on fruit juice and essential oils from fruit and other artificial “flavorings” are frequently chemicals from a group of chemicals called aldehydes. They can break down over time into smaller chemicals which can include formaldehyde or other toxic types of aldehydes. (G.49) So if you are “vaping” in order to avoid toxins in cigarette smoke then it may be advisable to skip the “chocolate or fruit flavoring” and use an E-Cigarette product that just has the natural tobacco flavor instead. (Yes, tobacco is an herb and it has a flavor and nicotine can have some health benefits, however formaldehyde does not. The nicotine patch provides a steady dose of nicotine without any volatile toxins.)
  2. Poorly ventilated air or smog; (G.45)
  3. Vinyl and PVC plastic products off-gas formaldehyde and other volatile chemicals at levels that can make a sensitive person feel ill. (G.45). A poorly ventilated room would increase the risk of the gases accumulating to more toxic levels. The wax refinishing treatments used to clean and shine vinyl flooring are also sources of formaldehyde and other toxic gases. One re-waxing session can produce as much volatile chemicals from the chemical products that are used to strip off the old layer of wax polish and add a new layer, as the vinyl floor itself would off-gas throughout all the years of its installation. So making a choice about which type of flooring to install is also making a choice about the  type of cleaning products that will be needed to maintain the floor. (G.46) A Cleaning Product Fact Sheet is available from the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board: (G.47). Types of flooring and other building materials are discussed in extensive detail in a review article regarding sources of Formaldehyde in the Indoor Environment: (G.45).
  4. Metabolites of the breakdown of the alternative sweetener aspartame and Neotame include menthol and formaldehyde. (G.48)  
  5. Older packages of fruit juice also may contain formaldehyde in amounts that can continue to increase as the product ages. The formaldehyde is produced as other chemicals become unstable over time and metabolically breakdown into a variety of smaller chemicals which include formaldehyde. The food preservative method of ionizing radiation has been found to increase the chemical breakdown of larger aldehydes in apple juice into formaldehyde and other chemicals with toxic properties. (p476, G.50)
  6. Before leaving the topic of formaldehyde, the symptoms of toxicity with workplace exposure to formaldehyde have been reported to include allergic type symptoms including: “sneezing/airways-related symptoms, itching and watery eyes.” (G.51) Formaldehyde exposure may also be a cause of systemic allergic contact dermatitis, (G.52, G.53, G.54), possibly even with symptoms of rash occurring on the eyelids.(G.55) A diet designed to avoid formaldehyde intake may be helpful for alleviating the eczema like rash. (G.52)

A summary, in reverse order;

Formaldehyde might be accumulating from several sources, (G.56):

  • Workplace exposure; Workers more at risk might include health professionals, (G.51); and hair stylists or nail salon technicians, (G.58); and funeral directors may be more at risk for developing the paralyzing chronic disease ALS, (G.59); some industries such as the garment and textile industry may have formaldehyde exposure, (G.63);
  • Aseptically packaged juices, the amount may collect in older packages as the product ages, ionizing radiation methods of food preservation have been found to increase the amount of toxic aldehydes including formaldehyde and therefore is not a recommended technique for the juice industry, (p476, G.50);
  • Nutrasweet (aspartame) and Neotame, alternative sweeteners. (G..48)
  • Vinyl flooring, cleaning products, and other PVC type of plastic products. (G.45, G.46, G.47);
  • Poorly ventilated air or smog. (G.45); *Note, lighting large numbers of decorative candles may be increasing volatile chemicals in your air supply. Also air fresheners and cleaning products may contain chemicals that break down into formaldehyde. (G.60) Lifestyle choices besides smoking cigarettes can negatively affect health. Try a fern for air freshening instead; give it a nickname and you might get some emotional benefits in addition to other physical health benefits. Plants can be useful household decorations because some types can clean the air of formaldehyde and other toxins. The original research was by a NASA scientist for use in keeping the air fresh in living environments for astronauts. For the most effective air cleaning ability, the plant does need to be watered and misted as its particular type requires, because the chemical removal of formaldehyde from the air is dependent on the roots and leaves access to water. (G.61); a mechanical problem with the furnace or water heater and ventilation system may be leaking toxic chemicals into the building’s air supply; increased efficiency of insulation and other building materials have created rooms and buildings that are too good at preventing air circulation, which makes maintenance and cleaning of ventilation systems and fans important – otherwise everyone working or living in the space might start feeling some symptoms of “sick building syndrome.” (G.62)
  • Smoking cigarettes or other products, and flavorings in “vaped” E-Cigarettes may also be a source of formaldehyde. (G.44, G.49)

Fact Sheets regarding Formaldehyde, Environmental Safety and Health:

  • The Centers for Disease Control provides a fact sheet for further guidance regarding risks and precautions regarding formaldehyde: What You Should Know About Formaldehyde, (G.57)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency provides a fact sheet on sick building syndrome: Fact Sheet: Sick Building Syndrome, (G.62)
  • The Cleaning Products Fact Sheet, by the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board provides guidance regarding safer cleaning products: (G.47)
  • The National Cancer Institute’s Fact Sheet: Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk includes research on occupations that may be at risk for formaldehyde exposure and provides a list of organizations that might have more information or other help to offer. (G.63)

Sick Building Syndrome: Symptoms that may occur due to breathing air that contains too much formaldehyde may include sore throat, cough, scratchy eyes, and nosebleeds according to the fact sheet by the Centers for Disease Control. (G.57) So if everyone working in a building, or many workers or family members are all experiencing allergies or a slight cold that just doesn’t seem to want to go away – then bad air may be a problem. See the fact sheet on Sick Building Syndrome by the EPA for more information. (G.62)

Eczema: The eczema symptoms reported in medical research may occur with more chronic long-term exposure to formaldehyde and/or in individuals who also have more difficulties metabolically with detoxifiying formaldehyde – we don’t know all the answers. I have personally experienced skin rashes off and on all my life and was startled to develop it on my eyelids in my more recent past – and then was more startled, or more relieved to learn of the possible cause – formaldehyde exposure (G.55) and systemic allergic contact dermatitis, (G.52, G.53, G.54) Poor air quality was a problem at the time in part due to water heater mechanical problems, and also first and secondhand smoke were contaminants in my air supply – I cleaned up and changed habits somewhat and my eyelid rash got better – yeah science! To me that seems like an example of effective self care and effective use of evidence-based medical research even if I had to read it on my own.

Other health risks include cancer and neurological conditions: The link between cancer and formaldehyde may be less strong than for neurological disorders such as ALS in funeral home directors, (G.59), or autism in a child whose mother had prenatal exposure to formaldehyde, (G.56), however research has found some cancers associated with occupational exposure to formaldehyde. The National Cancer Institute also has a fact sheet on the topic of formaldehyde and it includes a convenient list of addresses and websites for organizations that might have more information for workers concerned about exposure risks such as OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration,. (G.64) See the National Cancer Institute’s Fact Sheet: Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk for more information and resources regarding formaldehyde and occupational safety: (G.63)

Houseplants can help offices as well as astronauts:

If you are looking for a hair salon that is likely to have less formaldehyde and other volatile toxins in the air then look for one with lots of healthy ferns and other tropical low light houseplants. (G.61) If you are a hair salon or other business owner interested in improving the air quality in your establishment with the help of ferns and other houseplants, then hire a staff member who knows and loves plants because they do require some consistent care that can vary quite a bit depending on the type of plant – or buy the book by the NASA research scientist and have an employee learn how to care for your indoor air-cleaning garden.

The scientist, B. C. Wolverton, organized what he learned to help astronauts in an easy to use plant guide that lists the species of plants which were found most effective at cleaning air. The book, How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants that Purify Your Home or Office, includes guidance for caring for each species and also lists them by the types of volatile chemicals that they were able to remove from the air. (G.66)

Large urban areas may have office plant services available where a greenhouse or florist shop supplies and maintains lovely office plants for a subscription or rental type of payment. An employee of the plant business has a route of subscribing businesses to visit each week in order to water, mist, and trim plants of any dead leaves, even a healthy plant will look sad if it is covered in a layer of dust and has a few dead leaves. Plants that are sick are simply returned to the greenhouse for care or recycling and the empty spot is filled with a replacement by the plant business employee.

Ambius is an example of an office-plant company with service locations available in many urban areas in both Canada and the United States. See the Ambius website for more information and service locations: Ambius.com.

Disclaimer

References: