Environmental Protection

High Mold Air Alert Issued For Midwest

Residents in the Midwest awoke to the highest mold count for the season after a night of torrential rain and lightening strikes. An official air alert was issued by Joseph Leija, MD, allergist who performs the official allergy count for the Midwest for the National Allergy Bureau.

“The daily count was 59,000, and the threshold for dangerous levels is at 50,000,” said Dr. Leija, who performs the Gottlieb Allergy Count at Loyola University Health System’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital.

“Chicagoans will experience stuffy noses, post-nasal drip, scratchy throats, headaches and fatigue due to the high mold count in the air,” said Dr. Leija. “The mold count is dangerously high for those with chronic conditions such as lung or heart disease as well as asthma and breathing conditions.”

And the high mold count on record is just for the outdoors.

“The Midwest has suffered from repeated flooding and many homes may have toxic levels of mold due to the damp,” said Dr. Leija. “In addition to stagnant water, many sewer systems backed up and overflowed adding additional health risks.”

Dr. Leija says hygrometers, or devices that measure indoor humidity which causes mold, are less than $40 and readily available in most electronic and home goods stores.

The Midwest suffered historic snowfalls this winter and the summer is proving to be a record-breaker as well with days of rainfall as well as continuous blazing heat. “This is the second mold alert I have issued in a seven day period,” said Dr. Leija. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency also declared an air pollution action day for Monday, August 1, for the greater Chicago metropolitan area.

Dr. Leija performs the daily official allergy count for the Midwest for the National Allergy Bureau from April through October, allergy-reporting season. Dr. Leija’s tips for protecting health today include:

• Stay indoors and avoid outdoor activity.
• Run air conditioning to lighten air by removing humidity.
• Rinse inner nostrils with saline solution to rinse trapped debris and moisten membranes.
• Avoid strenuous activity and rest.
• Talk to your allergist about adjusting prescribed medication.

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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