Environmental Protection

Midwest Experiences Dangerous Air Quality; Chicago Close to Breaking 1871 Rain Record

A mold count of more than 50,000 has triggered an alert for dangerous air quality throughout the Midwest. The Midwest experienced a record-breaking winter for snow and is again setting new records for heat and rain. A record 6.86 inches of rain that fell Saturday, July 23, and 4.37 more on Wednesday, July 27, is causing rivers to crest, blocking roads, stopping public transportation, causing power outages and flooding basements. Chicago is close to breaking an 1871 weather record for number of rainy days in July.

“Headaches, runny noses, sinus pressure and fatigue will plague those with sensitive breathing systems today, especially if they go outdoors,” said Joseph Leija, MD, the allergist who performs the Gottlieb Allergy Count, the official allergy count for the Midwest for the National Allergy Bureau. “This is the highest mold count the Midwest has experienced this year.”

Repeat powerful rainstorms, excessive heat warnings and even tornado alerts have contributed to the record mold count and also early ragweed reports.

“Not just allergy and asthma sufferers but those with heart disease and other chronic conditions are strongly advised to stay indoors in air conditioning today and to consult their allergist or physician about adjusting medication,” Leija said.

“If those with sensitive breathing conditions have homes or workplaces that have experienced flooding, I advise them to get out immediately to a clean, controlled environment or risk injury,” he said. “Flooding can easily cause indoor mold counts to be much higher – even to toxic breathing conditions.”

“The heat, the rain, now the pestilence of mold is making this a summer of biblical proportions in the world of allergies.”

For more than two decades, Dr. Leija has performed the Gottlieb Allergy Count, the official allergy count for the Midwest, on behalf of the National Allergy Bureau, Monday through Friday. Each day, at 5 a.m., he gathers air samples from a special pollen-catching machine atop Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park. Using his microscope, Dr. Leija identifies and counts every single allergen in what can take more than one hour. He then uses National Allergy Bureau-dictated algorithms to arrive at the official allergy count for the Midwest.

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