Allergy alert: Mold spores hit record

Mold spores don’t receive nearly the attention of the Big 3 tormentors of the allergic – grass, trees, and ragweed

– but allergy experts say it’s a big reason why some continue to suffer even after those seasons wind down.

For those sensitive to mold spores – not to be confused with indoor mold – the first day of Fall 2016 was a landmark day.

With the Thursday morning report, the spore count hit an all-time high of 19,990, according to the Asthma Center’s Dr. Donald J. Dvorin, the official counter for the National Allergy Bureau for the last 30 years.

 Consider that 7,000 – that’s the number of spores that pass through a refrigerator-sized parcel of air in a 24-hour period – is considered “extreme.”

Unlike the Big 3, these are spores produced by fungi, rather than pollen grains.

They typically show up in early spring and persist in the fall until the weather turns cold. The Asthma Center says the numbers are highest midsummer to late fall.

mold spores in the air

Conditions this week have been perfectly aligned for a harvest of mold spores, Dvorin said.

They love to grow on fallen leaves, of which we have plenty around here. The rains Monday might have given them a production boost, and the subsequent warmth and dryness have been ideal for flight.

Inhaling the spores can trigger a reaction that apes that of inhaling tree, grass, or ragweed pollen.

The tree and grass seasons are done, and ragweed is winding down, so if you’re still feeling like you’re under attack from pollen, the culprit might well be a spore.

Mold spores might be the under-the-radar ugly ducklings of the allergens, but about 60 percent of Asthma Center patients who complain of grass, tree, or ragweed allergies also react to mold spores, Dvorin said.

For more on the spores and pollen, check out the Asthma Center site.

Is Formaldehyde in your wood flooring?

Is Formaldehyde in your wood flooring?

Lumber Liquidators violated California’s air-quality controls by importing wood with formaldehyde

Beleaguered flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators is paying $2.5 million to settle allegations that some of its products violated California’s air-safety standards.

The penalty announced Tuesday was the latest that Lumber Liquidators has absorbed for formerly selling laminate flooring made in China.

In this case, Lumber Liquidators faced allegations that the imported flooring contained high levels of the carcinogen formaldehyde that violated California’s air-quality controls. The flooring was sold at Lumber Liquidators’ California stores from September 2013 until May 2015 when the retailer suspended sales of the products made in China.

Lumber Liquidators currently operates 40 of its 375 stores in California.

The Toano, Virginia, company didn’t acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement with the California Air Resources Board. Lumber Liquidators Pays $2.5M Over formaldehyde in Flooring

Last year, Lumber Liquidators paid $13.2 million in fines and pleaded guilty to environmental crimes for importing China-made flooring that contained timber illegally logged in eastern Russia.

Lumber Liquidators still faces a variety of class-action lawsuits revolving around the formaldehyde levels of the China-made flooring.

Read More: CDC Revises Lumber Liquidators Flooring Cancer Risk

The legal fallout so far has been less costly to Lumber Liquidators than the damage done to its stock since investigation shown slightly more than a year ago “60 Minutes” raised questions about whether the retailer was selling potentially hazardous flooring.

Shares of Lumber Liquidators Holdings Inc. have plunged more than 70 percent since the TV program aired, a downturn that has wiped out more than $1 billion in stockholder wealth. The shares rallied Tuesday, gaining $1.74 to $13.76 in afternoon trading.


What is formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical that is used in building materials and to produce many household products. It is used in pressed-wood products, such as particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard; glues and adhesives; permanent-press fabrics; paper product coatings; and certain insulation materials. In addition, formaldehyde is commonly used as an industrial fungicide, germicide, and disinfectant, and as a preservative in mortuaries and medical laboratories. Formaldehyde also occurs naturally in the environment. It is produced in small amounts by most living organisms as part of normal metabolic processes.

How is the general population exposed to formaldehyde?

According to a 1997 report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, formaldehyde is normally present in both indoor and outdoor air at low levels, usually less than 0.03 parts of formaldehyde per million parts of air (ppm). Materials containing formaldehyde can release formaldehyde gas or vapor into the air. One source of formaldehyde exposure in the air is automobile tailpipe emissions.

During the 1970s, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) was used in many homes. However, few homes are now insulated with UFFI. Homes in which UFFI was installed many years ago are not likely to have high formaldehyde levels now. Pressed-wood products containing formaldehyde resins are often a significant source of formaldehyde in homes. Other potential indoor sources of formaldehyde include cigarette smoke and the use of unvented fuel-burning appliances, such as gas stoves, wood-burning stoves, and kerosene heaters.

Industrial workers who produce formaldehyde or formaldehyde-containing products, laboratory technicians, certain health care professionals, and mortuary employees may be exposed to higher levels of formaldehyde than the general public. Exposure occurs primarily by inhaling formaldehyde gas or vapor from the air or by absorbing liquids containing formaldehyde through the skin.

Roach allergies & asthma

Cockroach Allergens in our Environment can increase asthma symptoms

Cockroaches are one of society’s most commonly found pests. Worldwide there are thousands of species of cockroaches and several dozen are associated with human habitats.  Of these, just a handful of species make up the vast majority of the pests found in homes, schools and offices.

The insects are normally considered to be nocturnal, so people may not always be aware of an infestation until it has gotten out of hand. Not only can cockroaches spread pathogens, but they are also a frequent cause of allergic reactions in people and are a known asthma trigger.  Some health experts also believe exposure to cockroach allergens may lead to the development of asthma in young children.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports, “Droppings or body parts of cockroaches and other pests can trigger asthma. Certain proteins are found in cockroach feces and saliva and can cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma symptoms in some individuals.”

Fortunately, there are simple steps that can be taken to reduce exposure risks to cockroach allergens, including the following:
•    Store foods in airtight containers and keep lids on garbage.
•    Keep commercial and residential kitchens and food storage areas clean and free of clutter.
•    Seal cracks and openings in kitchens and throughout a building.
•    Reduce humidity and repair any parts of a building that have suffered water damage.
•    Wash bedding frequently using hot water.
•    Carpeting can act as a sink for cockroach allergens so regularly vacuum with a HEPA vacuum or consider replacing carpeting with another type of flooring.
•    The use of cockroach baits and traps can also be effective.

The presence of cockroaches can not only make some people squirm, but can also lead to respiratory concerns for building occupants. For people who have asthma, it’s important for them to understand their exposure risks to various asthma triggers. For those sensitive to the presence of cockroach allergens, FunGuy offers indoor environmental allergen testing services to identify cockroach and other common indoor allergens.  These environmental tests can provide important information for controlling and minimizing exposure and managing asthma symptoms.

roaches allergies and asthma triggers in your environment

Learn about allergens and indoor allergy testing

Learn More

Moms beware of mold in sippy cups

A sippy cup company is under fire.

Two moms from Montreal shared unnerving photos of Tommee Tippee sippy cups on Facebook, Buzzfeed reports.

These photos show moldy sippy cups. Worse, the women allege that people can’t get rid of the mold when they try washing the cups.

Unsurprisingly, the moms are not happy about this.

According to Marie-Pier S. L’Hostie’s post (translated from French), her friend was wondering why his son had gotten sick, so he called Tommee Tipee. He got an unfortunate response.

She wrote:

“My friend Simon O’kanada wondered why his son was always sick. He broke the anti-spill top of his ‘Tommee Tippee’ bottle and discovered mold inside the mouthpiece. It doesn’t wash and can’t be seen unless it is broken open. He called the company, and the lady on the phone laughed out out loud. Several moms on other groups have also discovered mold after my post in another Facebook group, so I’m sharing you. If you please, those who have these cups, pay attention! Being washed by hand or in the dishwasher, the mold will stay there!”

Her friend Penny Powell shared the story (and nasty photos) as well, and said that the unsettling mold could only be seen if it the anti-spill top was broken open. She wrote that other mothers in a Facebook group complained about the issue.

She encouraged parents to share the issue and to complain to the company.

The photos that the women shared tell the story — there’s tons of mold right below where the mouthpiece is.

tommee tippee molFacebook/Penny Powell

tommee tippee moldFacebook/Penny Powell

Tommee Tippee responded in a Facebook post to the angry parents, apologizing and claiming to be “actively working on the subject.”

The company pointed to an FAQ section on its site describing how to pope-rly use the cups, but also said that the company could not find “any trace of the conversation with [the original friend who discussed the issue], however we ask him to contact us by private message so that we can answer him directly.”

In a statement to Buzzfeed, the company advised consumers to use the cups with “recommended liquids” which include “cold, light fluids including water and non-pulp juice” and to clean the cups according to the instructions. ” Difficulties have arisen though when liquids that are not recommended for use in the cups have been used, like thick formula milk, pulpy juice and warm liquids. We also recommend that cups are not left for long periods before being cleaned,” the company added.

Tommee Tippee did say in the statement that “we understand that the well being of little ones is paramount and we can reassure all parents that we have extensively tested the valves,” and again, encouraged troubled. consumers to reach out ot them.

You can view the original Facebook complaints in full below.

Hundreds of California homes, buildings used plans drafted by 2 phony engineers, say authorities

Hundreds of buildings — from houses to strip malls — could face the wrecking ball after California authorities unraveled a decade-long scam involving a pair of phony building engineers who used stolen software to craft bogus blueprints, officials told

Wilfrido Rodriguez and Ruben Gutierrez, allegedly posing as licensed professionals and using stolen software, drew up engineering and architectural plans for homes, apartments, commercial properties and strip malls in at least 56 Southern California cities beginning in 2003, according to police. Neither had the training, expertise or credentials to vouch for the safety of the building plans, and authorities are only now grasping the scope of the problem.

“There has never been a case involving alleged engineering fraud of this magnitude,” Detective Rod Barton, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau, told “Because this involves fraud related to structural engineering, we just don’t know if the houses are safe, unsafe or suitable for habitation.”

“There has never been a case involving alleged engineering fraud of this magnitude.”

– Det. Rod Barton, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

The pair duped architects, builders and homeowners into believing they knew what they were doing, Barton said. Now, authorities are tasked with reviewing every building the pair worked on and determining if they are structurally sound, an issue made all the more urgent given the frequency of earthquakes in California.

“A significant concern is foundations,” said Panos Prevedouros, a professor and chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. “Experienced drafters can work out safe designs for small masonry structures, but proper foundation design and specialized structural components required detailed engineering analysis.”

Before embarking on their alleged scam, the pair worked for the Rolling Hills Estates-based Palos Verdes Engineering Company. The company, which declined to comment for this story, told authorities it uncovered the alleged engineering fraud after a customer complained about an offer made by the men in April 2014.
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phonyengineers2 Expand / Contract

Police say the men are now cooperating, but the scope of the problem is massive.

Since that time, Barton and his bureau have been tracking down projects that involved the pair, and have been stunned and horrified at the number of buildings involved.

“Up until then, nobody had any knowledge that this fraud was occurring,” Barton told “We visited 56 cities from San Bernardino and Riverside to Ventura County. Our nexus were the initial files Palos Verdes Engineering identified, and then we segued into other projects. It was a lot of groundwork.”

Law enforcement authorities are working the Board of Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists to determine the scope and risk posed by the alleged fraud.

“Evidence thus far uncovered leads us to believe there were hundreds of projects built on their fraudulent structural engineering,” said Tiffany Criswell, the board’s enforcement manager. “Evidence leads us to believe there are additional properties we have yet to identify.”

One challenge for law enforcement is that many local governments only keep design and engineering plans on file for six months.

“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sent contact letters to homeowners, developers, and architectural designers whose properties have been identified as possibly being associated with fraudulent structural engineering,” Barton said. “Investigators believe additional properties associated with structural engineering fraud may exist, but have not yet been identified.”

The men have not been charged and are cooperating with the sheriffs’ detectives. While sheriffs didn’t say how much the men allegedly profited on the deal, they likely made at least $2,000 to $3,000 per project on potentially several hundred projects over 11 years, according to industry insiders.

The LA sheriff’s white collar crime division will consider the case and whether to charge the men with a variety of crimes including civil engineering fraud, grand theft, theft of company identity, and forgery, LA sheriffs’ detectives said.

Palos Verdes Engineering Company had no business relations with the men between 2003 and 2014, during the time the alleged fraud occurred, Barton said. The men allegedly stole software from the company, which was used to produce fraudulent engineering plans bearing its company name and logo, Barton said.

“Palos Verdes Engineering Company’s civil engineer seal and forged signature was also used on structural engineering records to make the plans appear authentic, and as if they had been reviewed and approved by a licensed professional civil engineer.”

Legitimate professional engineers must have a degree in civil engineering, pass several grueling exams and obtain five years of experience before they can sign off on design documents for implementation.

On the architectural side, the value of architectural licensure is “immeasurable,” said Matt Tinder, spokesperson for
The American Institute of Architects, in Washington, DC.

“Without it, the entire built environment could serve as a public safety hazard,” Tinder said.

While there have been no glaring design flaws brought to the sheriff’s attention, there could be a risk to the public, which could be heightened by a natural disaster such as an earthquake. The sheriff’s department is advising homeowners who worked with Rodriguez and Gutierrez to contract the services of a civil engineer to go through the plans, examine their residence and determine if they are safe.

“We want to make sure people are safe,” Barton said. “There is a reason all these requirements are in place. When the whole procedure is circumvented, something bad can happen.

Fungi are part of our outdoor environment

20141127_120103_resizedFungi (or mold) fruiting bodies typically grow outdoors.  This common mold or shelf fungi (or bracket fungus) will eat the old stump by digesting the wood and add natural features unique to this outdoor garden.

These pictures were taken and submitted by a Fun Guy client.  – Thank You!


Wikipedia | Bracket fungi, or shelf fungi, are among the many groups of fungi that comprise the  Read more > >


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