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What Are the Chemicals That Trigger Allergies, and How Can Chemists Help Prevent Allegies?

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What are the chemicals that trigger allergies, and how can chemists help prevent allegies?

Elle Fremerman | General Chemistry 111 | 2/17/18

Allergies are a chronic health condition amongst children, adults and the elderly. Allergies are one of the most common lifelong illnesses that people have to deal with. If a family member has a history of allergies its more than likely that their kids will inherit them. What are the chemicals that trigger allergies in our food products and environment that make us have a mild to serious allergic reaction? How can chemist help prevent these allergies?

        The sole purpose of an immune system is to protect itself by killing any bacteria, fungi, virus or any other seriously dangerous, infectious microorganisms, that try to get into our bodies. When people are allergic to a certain substance, such as pollen, the immune system starts attacking the foreign microorganism, by making antibodies that kill the substance. Due to this, our bodies react with having mild to serious symptoms like a runny noses, itchy eyes or wheezing, which can cause the body to develop asthma later on in life. Food allergies are one of the most common allergies.  

Food is one of the biggest causes of allergic reactions. Dr. Joseph Mercola who wrote What Chemical Cocktail Is in Your Food? stated that “If you eat processed foods, you’re consuming a chemical cocktail with each bite. Even seemingly simple foods like bread, processed cheese, salad dressing or pasta sauce are typically loaded with preservatives, emulsifiers, flavorings, colorings and other enhancers.”  When kids eat processed foods, such as candy, the artificial colors added to that product have some chemicals that can give children serious health conditions. When a kid, adult or the elderly, eat a red colored lollipop which has red 40 (C18H14N2Na2O8S2) chemical dye in it, they could not only have an allergic reaction, but also could develop tumors in their immune system. Another chemical found in foods, that trigger allergies is sodium sulfite (Na2SO3). This chemical is found in a lot of our food preservatives, some of the symptoms people get who are allergic get are headaches, trouble breathing and sometimes death if it’s a serious allergic reaction.

Potassium Bromide (KBr) is another common chemical found in flours that commercial bakeries use. Dr. Joseph Mercola also states in her article that “Studies have linked potassium bromate to kidney and nervous system damage, thyroid problems, gastrointestinal discomfort, and cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies potassium bromate as a possible carcinogen. Potassium bromate is banned for food use in Canada, China and the EU.” There are many chemicals in our foods that cause our immune system to have allergic reactions. Secondly, what environmental chemicals trigger our allergies?

        The environment is filled with chemicals that can trigger an allergic reaction in the immune system. The first chemical, Diesel (C12H24), and exhaust Particles (DEP) from the gas we put in our cars. If young kids are exposed to diesel gas, they are more likely to develop an allergy towards this chemical. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health stated in their article The Effects of Environmental Toxins on Allergic Inflammation “In a recent study of children with allergic asthma, those exposed to high levels of DEPs had more frequent symptoms over a 12-month period (32.2%) compared with only 14.2% in a low DEP-exposure group. Children with allergic asthma exposed to high DEP levels had ~6-fold higher serum IL-17A levels compared with low DEP-exposed children.”

        Pesticides are another common environmental toxin that is sprayed on our foods, to keep bugs and diseases away. This chemical is not only used in our food industries, but also in agriculture, forestry and the fishery industry.  Pesticides can cause a series of health conditions because this chemical impairs lung function and when people who are allergic have a reaction. Common symptoms of this are asthma, coughing and wheezing. The Effects of Environmental Toxins on Allergic Inflammation states “Livestock farmers on farms had significantly lower incidences of allergic rhinitis than crop farmers.” Livestock farmers don’t need pesticides for their animals, as opposed to crop farmers, who do need pesticides to keep their plants from being eaten by bugs. Thirdly, how chemist can help prevent these allergies?

There are so many chemicals that can trigger allergies at any time. There are a couple ways they can prevent some of these chemicals from forming an allergic reaction. One of the ways is to limit consumptions of the foods that have bad chemicals. Chemists say to look at the ingredient list before buying food to make sure that they do not have artificial dyes in them. When the flu season comes around, a lot of people use hand sanitizer which has the chemical triclosan. They believe that this will prevent them from becoming sick when it can cause illness, but also it can trigger an allergic reaction. Chemists say the best way to avoid getting sick is to avoid using any body product that has ‘antibacterial’ or 'antimicrobial’ printed on it. When dealing with the chemicals in our environment, chemist say the best way to prevent young kids from developing allergies to pesticides or diesel is to avoid neonatal and prenatal exposure to the environment chemicals.

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