Legume Pollen and Peanut Allergy

Posted on: Mon, 06/25/2001 - 4:11pm
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I'm interested in kicking off some discussion if I can about legume pollen and how it may well be considerably dangerous for those with allergy to peanuts.
Exposure to this pollen from landscape plants is more common now than ever and in some areas it is extensive.
Last year I published an article on this subject (The Peanut in Your Garden) in the New Scientist magazine, published from London. There was considerable attention paid to the subject in Europe but little so far in America.

I am concerned about cross-reactive responses with legume pollen. Certain types of landscape legumes, trees & shrubs in particular, release large amounts of airborne pollen and allergy to them are already common, especially in the localities where these are planted.
I see these cross-species and cross-family reactions frequently. Example: Someone becomes allergic to almonds and then they have the propensity to also become allergic to cherries. Why?
Cherries and almonds are both in the Rose family and additionally connected, both are in the genus Prunus. Furthermore, of the Prunus group, these two species are frequently wind-pollinated, unlike say, apricots or peaches.
My concern is legume pollen and how it relates to those who already have an allergy to peanuts. From what I have seen already with pollen-related allergies and pollen/food related allergy, it makes total sense that this is an area of concern--especially since peanut allergy is so acutly dangerous.
In California acacia trees and groundcovers (both are legumes)are increasingly being used, especially by the State highway department, CALTRANS.
In Arizona and Nevada and some other SW states, acacia, mesquite and other legume trees are again being used in urban areas more and more.
In many other states there has beeen much increased use of Gleditsia tricanthos, Honey Locust trees. These in nature are monoecious and always have both sexes on the same trees. The ones being planted en mass though, are "improved" cultivars (clones) and they are all "seedless" or "podless." This is because they are now all male--and as such they release pollen but don't trap any of it.
I'm interested in any and all reactions on this subject.

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Tom Ogren

Posted on: Tue, 06/26/2001 - 2:30am
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Makes me wonder if someday soon, peanut allergy will have to be reclassified as an environmental allergy as well as a food allergy.

Posted on: Tue, 06/26/2001 - 4:30am
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Archide,
I like to use the term, "biopollution" when talking about urban pollen levels. Since in our cities we are in charge of what we plant, the pollen we end up with is of our own making.
We can choose to have either very low amounts of pollen or very high levels. Peanut allergy is serious and dangerous and excess legume pollen in the city air is a harazard for any and all with allergy to peanuts.
I agree with you totally. Perhaps we do need a new classification for this.
Tom [url="http://www.allergyfree-gardening.com"]www.allergyfree-gardening.com[/url]
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Tom Ogren

Posted on: Tue, 06/26/2001 - 10:11am
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Thanks for the link to the website. Every time I want to plant something, I wonder if it's going to cause us to sneeze!

Posted on: Tue, 06/26/2001 - 1:10pm
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Bensmom,
Cute webname you have there. I have grown twin daughters and for years my wife and I were known to most everyone as, "the Twins mom and dad."
Tom

Posted on: Tue, 06/26/2001 - 2:18pm
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Wow! Mesquite is a legume?? I'm very allergic to mesquite but never realized it could be related to my peanut and soy allergies. My in-laws moved to West Texas for a few years. I went to visit them about 3 or 4 times. My first visit I was fine or having only very mild symptoms, my second/third visit(s) I had mild to moderate hay fever symptoms. My last visit was terrible - nose POURING, throat itching, eyes running and swelling, hives, etc, etc, etc. I assumed the reaction was to something environmental and mesquite and sagebrush seemed to be the most prevalent things there. Since I knew I had tested positive for mesquite in the past I figured that was the most likely culprit. Last year I was skin tested and had a pretty strong reaction to the mesquite - sagebrush wasn't on the test.
Rebekah

Posted on: Tue, 06/26/2001 - 2:46pm
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I think what you're saying makes perfect sense. We live in Dallas where there seems to be an abundance of hackberry, pecan, and cedar elm trees, as well as ozone action days. As of now, the only pollen in the air (as reported on the evening news) is mold and some grass. My question is, how can the ozone that is trapped cause such horrible reactions for asthmatics? Is there pollen in there too? For the past two weeks with ozone action days, my PA daughter and I have been suffering standard allergy symptoms along with wheezing (we're both asthmatic). Do you know how one affects the other?
Thanks for your time-
bunkysmom
PS- Very impressed by your book. Is it available in libraries too? In the midst of landscaping projects around the house. I will definitely use your book as a design tool.

Posted on: Wed, 06/27/2001 - 5:01am
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Rebekah,
Sure, mesquite is a legume, and so is palo verde, and catalpa tree, and about 12,000 other species!
They are using legumous trees much more than in the past now in newer landscapes and this over-use is leading to over-exposure to legume pollen. I wonder myslef if this isn't helping to drive the number of cross-related peanut allergies in the first place.
Tom [url="http://www.allergyfree-gardening.com"]www.allergyfree-gardening.com[/url]

Posted on: Wed, 06/27/2001 - 5:02am
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Rebekah,
Sure, mesquite is a legume, and so is palo verde, and catalpa tree, and about 12,000 other species!
They are using legumous trees much more than in the past now in newer landscapes and this over-use is leading to over-exposure to legume pollen. I wonder myslef if this isn't helping to drive the number of cross-related peanut allergies in the first place.
Tom [url="http://www.allergyfree-gardening.com"]www.allergyfree-gardening.com[/url]
------------------
Tom Ogren

Posted on: Wed, 06/27/2001 - 5:12am
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Bunkysmom,
I'm still not sure if I have the hang of this forum and how to post. I see my last reply was doubled.
My book, Allergy-Free Gardening, July 2000, from Ten Speed Press, is in over 1500 libraries in the US right now. If your own library doesn't have it, just request that they get it and the will pick up a copy. I luckily got very good reviews in Library Journal, so that helped with the libraries.
About the pollen counts: I don't trust them. They leave out a lot of things/ Many kinds of pollen are just grouped as "other."
The pollen is collected from very high up and the traps miss many species' pollen that has a higher specific gravity and doesn't float up high often.
I like to collect pollen to ID at ground level and sometimes will take samples from spider webs, which make very decent pollen traps! I like to see what kind of pollen is around down where we actually live.
Most people know very little botany and many if not most allergists know almost no horticulture. There is a real gap here and this is pretty much where I fit in. You can go to someones house, find their yards full of highly allergenic landscape plants, and the people there may not have been tested for any of the things growing right in their own yards. I see that all the time. Often I find shrubs, totally full of highly allergenic pollen, growing right under someone's bedroom window. The soluton there is pretty clear cut.
Tom [url="http://www.allergyfree-gardening.com"]www.allergyfree-gardening.com[/url]
------------------
Tom Ogren

Posted on: Wed, 06/27/2001 - 7:10am
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Thanks, Tom. I'm going to see if I can find it online at the library. If not, it's off to the bookstore! Is there any way I could check the pollen count in my own backyard?
bunkysmom [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

Posted on: Thu, 06/28/2001 - 2:31pm
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Hi Tom. I should probably be e-mailing you at the website address, however, I thought I'd let you know I got the book from the library today and just got through evaluating the plants I just planted in my garden, specifically right outside of our bedroom window. How does Arabian Jasmine and Amaranthus sound?! I couldn't have picked worse choices!! Looks like I"ll be transplanting them to the other side of the house. I am finding your book very interesting so far, and I would recommend it to others who have a green thumb and want to protect their breathing environment. I also found your comments about the VOC plants quite interesting. I'm going to read on to see if you go into any greater detail. Are pecan trees also considered to have VOC's?
bunkysmom

Posted on: Fri, 06/29/2001 - 2:51am
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How far north can legumous trees be planted/found (i.e. their planting zones)?
Would legume pollen be a serious issue in eastern Canada?

Posted on: Fri, 06/29/2001 - 6:05am
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Hi,All,
I'm going to respond to several people here & to a number of different concerns.
First, yes there certainly are legumous trees that will grow from zones 3-10, which would include most Canadian cities too. As a rule their pollen is failry dense and it doesn't travel too far from its source. However, pollen from a legumous tree can be quite abundant in the area immediately around and under such trees. When entire city blocks are planted to these, as often is done, then the problem expands considerably and a "pollen corridor" is created. I condiser plantings like these to be especially dangerous for those with peanut allergy. Furthermore, I suspect that such mass plantings of legume trees and shrubs in urban areas, may actually be causing overexposure to legume allergens-- and thus could well be driving the increasing incidence of allergy to peanuts.
VOC's are of great concern to those with allergies and really ought to be of much concern to all of us who value clean air. There has been much study and data collected on this subkject since around 1969 but most of it was collected by the government and they have not released it. They do not want to ruffle feathers. Many people get upset if you are seen as "attacking" their favorite trees--as well I already know.
At any rate, next spring, 2002, my next book will be published, called Safe Sex in The Garden, (Ten Speed Press also) and in this book I am going to dig into VOC's(volitale organic compounds) and make many recommendations as to which species produce it and which consume it. VOC's, in particular carbon monoxide and ozone, both contribute to smog and to allergies.
I'll be talking about smog trees and super trees. My idea of a real super tree is one that produces no allergenic pollen and that also is a net consumer of VOC's.
By the way, there is a good article on my work in the current issue of the Utne Reader that just came out on newstands. They called it the "Sexual Politics of Pollen."
Per collecting pollen in your own back yard: it is not really all that hard to do. All you need is a halfway decent microscope and some slides. You can smear a tiny bit of clear grease on a slide and just set it outside in the yard and it will catch pollen grains. The problem is, each species grains are different and you would need to be able to look at them and determine what was what. I can do this but I have been at it for many years. Still, talk to me if you want to pursue it. It is utterly fascinating!
About pecan trees and VOC's--it will be in SSITG too.
For now,
Tom [url="http://www.allergyfree-gardening.com"]www.allergyfree-gardening.com[/url]
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Tom Ogren

Posted on: Fri, 06/29/2001 - 6:43am
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Just to clarify for anyone who doesn't know/understand... (the environmental chemist wishes to be of some service! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img])
VOC- volatile organic carbon. (This term encompasses a large variety of organic molecules which have in common only the property of being easily found in the gas phase.)
"Organic"- in this context, this means simply any molecule which includes carbon- carbon as well as carbon- hydrogen bonds. (Think of each atom as a "bead" and the bonds as strings that hold them together.)
NOT ALL VOC's are unnatural NOR are all of them harmful. SOME VOC's are priority pollutants, generally because inhalation is a pretty insidious method of exposure and because they have OTHER features (molecularly speaking) which make them hazardous, such as being phorbol ester mimics (and therefore endocrine disruptors). Latex paints are one of the single most ubiquitous routes of exposure to hazardous VOC.
Tom- while I have a lot of respect for the work you have done, please be cautious about calling all VOC's harmful. Many plant and insect hormones and fragrances fall into this category, and have been tested as completely benign. You are incorrect in calling CO2 a VOC to begin with. CO2 is not organic (containing no hydrogen), and ozone (while far from benign!) does not even contain carbon- it is O3 (as opposed to "oxygen" which is O2).
Your work is far too important for you to risk branding yourself a "fringe" person by making scientifically incorrect statements like this. (I'm terribly sorry if that sounds harsh... I've tried to reword it several times with no success... [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/frown.gif[/img])
I am also curious and excited about the link between pollens grains and food allergy.... does the pollen's coat contain allergenic proteins? Clearly there must be some link, or there would be no oral allergy syndrome, which is quite real!
Great thread! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
[This message has been edited by Corvallis Mom (edited June 29, 2001).]

Posted on: Fri, 06/29/2001 - 10:31pm
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This is fasinating stuff.
Corvallis Mom - thanks for explaining about VOC's. Up to now I thought it was a classification of plant, not molecule as I understand now (I flunked chemistry!). You pointed out that it was incorrect to say that CO2 was a VOC. Isn't CO2 carbon dioxide? Tom claimed carbon monoxide was a VOC. Are neither VOC's?
Tom - thanks for your response about planting zones. I will definately be on the lookout for your books. Terrific information!

Posted on: Tue, 07/03/2001 - 6:08am
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Voc's:
CO2 is of course, carbon dioxide. It is a greenhouse gas and makes up 80-85 percent of the total of the greenhouse gases. CO2 has huge impact on plant growth and we in the nursery business have always used CO2 to enhance plant growth. Increase in CO2 also results in increase in plant pollen.
The two plant produced "products" that I am mostly concerned with (besides pollen)are carbon monoxide and ozone, that when combined with man-made NO3 become two of the main components of smog.
I am certainly not the first to group ozone in with the VOC's and perhaps what's needed is a new term, but really, airborne particles and gases, or whatever, is too long, too easily confused.
I looked over the previous correspondence and if I said anywhere here that all VOC's are harmfull, I don't see it. Also, if I wrote that CO2 is a VOC, I don't see that either.
At any rate, I am not a chemist nor have I ever pretended to be one. I am a horticulturist and am chiefly concerned with the role plants play on our health. The chemists and others have known about this information for over thirty years now and have yet to adequately publicize it, even though it is of great importance to all of us.
Unlike the USDA people and the other researchers-writers who work for universities and corporations, I work for myself. As such I'm free to call 'em as I see them.
------------------
Tom Ogren

Posted on: Sat, 07/07/2001 - 6:52am
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Thanks for your input everybody. I'm learning alot. I hope no one's feathers got ruffled too much....
bunkysmom [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

Posted on: Sun, 07/08/2001 - 11:56am
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Bunkysmom,
Ruffling feather all right! You know I just went back and looked over that note again and I see that she says that CO2 isn't a VOC since it "has to have hydrogen to be organic." Hey, that's news to me! I always thought that organic meant that a substance had to have C, carbon, to be organic. That all carbon compounds are now considered organic.
Another odd thing I noticed is that she says that VOC's are, "volatile organic carbon."
Well, that's not right either. They're volatile organic compounds.
But really, 'tis all a bunch of jargon and at any rate, I myself certainly did not coin the term VOC as it is commonly used now.

Posted on: Wed, 07/11/2001 - 6:06am
Corvallis Mom's picture
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Tom,
Certainly not trying to ruffle feathers. Please accept that I too am simply trying to allow my expertise to be useful. I *am* a chemist, thus some of my perspective, which no doubt differs from yours. My formal botany training is pretty limited, so we're even.
VOC is usually used to mean Volatile Organic Carbon among many environmental chemists simply because it is often easiest to measure total quantities of these trace compounds rather than to do an individual assays a the ppb levels required, if you see what I mean. Yes, many others refer to the acronym the way that you do.
CO2 is very very rarely regarded by chemists or environmental scientists as organic, for the reason I mentioned before. Yes, as difficult as it may be to realize, it is true that "organic" means not just carbon, but C-H bonds. This is not usually emphasized in a sophomore organic chem course because I suspect that your average organic chemist has stopped even thinking about it that way. If you recall, however, METHANE (a central carbon with four hydrogen atoms attached) is the first organic molecule that students are introduced to- it is the simplest compound which can still be considered to meet the criteria. The reason is that without these carbon to hydrogen bonds, a compound is unlikely to have some of the other properties (chemically speaking) that come with the energy levels that C-H bonds are typically at: the ability to break into damaging free radicals under UV light, for example.
I do not mean to imply that CO2 or ozone either one are not priority pollutants- they are. Tom is quite correct in saying that "smog" as we know it is basically composed of varying proportions of NOx, ozone, and CO2.
Tom- I sincerely hope that I have not offended you too much for you to answer a question that I have for you. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
I know that some of the plants that you mention have been classified taxonomically (as opposed to genetic fingerprinting which has been a relatively recent development in the field of plant classification). Since some of the molecular biology methods have shown long-standing classifications to be incorrect, I was wondering how you think this may ultimately change our view about "cross-reactivity" and for that matter "unrelated plants."
I appreciate any insight you can give!

Posted on: Wed, 07/11/2001 - 6:37am
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Corvallis,
You bring up an interesting point. I'd say this though: I continue to be totally impresed with the current system of binomial nomeclature as established by Karl Linnaus. It was founded, as I'm sure you know, based not entirely but mostly, on similarities of species' sexual characteristics. Over time most of his classifications have proven surprisingly right on, especially considering how well all the rest of the world's scientists had flubbed this before him.
Cross breeding or the ability of one soecies to breed with another is and has been a fairly good indicator of how correct a plant's (or animal's) classification actually is.
Nonetheless, in allergy study there are continually things that pop up where the apparent relativity of the two--is baffling.
Perhaps these will eventually be explained through the use of genetic fingerprinting. Yes, some of the molecular biology methods have indeed shown long-standing classifications to be incorrect, however I am amazed at how many have proven to be so very correct.
No doubt the use of gentic finerprinting will ultimately change some of our views about "cross-reactivity" and for that matter "unrelated plants." But to tell you the truth, what bothers me, is that so little attention has been paid (if any) to cross-reativity potential between well known allergens and the plants we landscape our own houses with.
------------------
Tom Ogren

Posted on: Wed, 07/11/2001 - 6:58am
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Hee hee hee! Now I'm totally baffled, as I have an architectural background and am completely in the dark. I think I'll stick to reading all of these informative books and leave the tough stuff up to you guys!
Glad that the feathers are smooth!! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
bunkysmom [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

Posted on: Wed, 07/11/2001 - 8:12am
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Thank you, Tom. What you say makes a lot of sense to me...doesn't make sense to question those classifications too much if there's so much about the Linnean system which is so absolutely correct (and proven so by DNA fingerprinting). I thought that most plants are probably correctly classified, but I am happy to hear that someone who knows a lot more about the subject than I do thinks so too!
What does pollen structure look like, protein-wise? (I mean, I've seen SEM photos that look a lot like viral protein coats, so I guess I just assumed that the structure would be a bit similar, but maybe you can tell me if this is true!)

Posted on: Mon, 07/16/2001 - 8:09am
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Bunkysmom and Corvallis Mom & anyone else jumpig in here,
As far as pollen structure, protein-wise, this is pretty well out of my league. I investigate pollen several ways. 1. I collect it daily and just look at it to see what it looks like, per its shape, size and etc. I am more concerned with the extine of the grain than the components of the entine.
2. I am forever checking on the abundance of different pollen types, per species, per year, per month, per cultivar. 3. I am interested in the reative stickiness and the clumping (or non-clumping) of the pollen grains, as this is a key to aero-dispersal.
4. I'm interested in the shape and form of pollen grains as often I find that certain shapes, ie very sharp spined, spiky grains cause considerable ill effects just from mechanical contact. I.e. these often pretty much rototill people's mucus systems.
Lastly, I'm interested in the effect that certain grains have on people. Some are obviously, on a grain per grain basis, much more potent on average than others. Pine pollen, sycamore or eucalyptus pollen, while terribly common in many areas, just doesn't usually provoke extreme reactions. On the other hand, some pollens such as Schinus spp,(pepper tree), Olive, privet, and some of the composites and the euphorbias, and occasionally some of the legumes, can generally be counted on to elicit severe reactions. Certain pollen types, Ricinus communis, castor bean pollen, for example, is extra potent and is an excellent asthma triggering agent.
I am interested in pollen at local sites, at pollen found at face-levels, as opposed to pollen collected from high up.
By the way, I just taped another HGTV segment for some show called "Smart Solutions," this past week. These won't air until spring of 2002 though. Am giving a talk this week (and next week also) to groups of arborists, sponsored by Cal Poly University's urban forestry NRM program. Is very encouraging to see the city arborists (finally!) starting to take notice of this sort of work.
Tom [url="http://www.allergyfree-gardening.com"]www.allergyfree-gardening.com[/url]
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Tom Ogren

Posted on: Sun, 12/21/2003 - 1:17pm
Anonymous's picture
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Simply re-raising for momma2boys. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
Happy Holidays! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
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