A team working at the University of Toronto has recently developed a formulation that is highly effective at removing trace amounts of nut allergens from hard surfaces (compared to current household cleaning products). When tasked with creating a life science product that would improve people's quality of life, the team chose to focus on the area of food allergies. They interviewed some parents, daycare centres, and healthcare workers, and wanted to use their training as scientists and engineers to create a product to protect children with food allergies, alleviate anxiety for the parents, and give all affected peace of mind. I emailed Kevin Ming, one of those working on the team, to talk about the development of their product.
Ming said consultations with Dr. Peter Vadas of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, and founder of Anaphylaxis Canada, led to discovering two important facts about nut allergies:
1. Constant exposure to trace amounts of nut allergens is counterproductive to their desensitization, reducing the likelihood of the child growing out of his/her allergy, and
2. Nut allergy sufferers, especially children, have more sensitive skin and, thus, more prone to skin irritations from harsher chemicals, like bleach.
Their preliminary results also show that typical household cleaners don't seem to be very effective at removing trace amounts of nut allergens from surfaces, and there doesn't seem to be any product on the market that specifically targets surface nut allergens. The findings prompted Ming and his team to create a surface allergen remover, and when compared to bleach and water, it's far safer for kids, and also environmentally-friendly.
The product is still in its developmental stages, so not available at the moment, but there's great hope on the horizon! The team wants the final product to be as user-friendly as possible, so they're looking to us for guidance in providing for the allergy community. In addition to taking the product to market, the team also hopes to start a company focused on helping people affected by food allergies,
I really think this has great potential for keeping people safe in public (think food courts, schools, daycare centres!), and the team is reaching out to the allergy community for some help.
"We now need help from you and the community in guiding the design of our product: Would you take a few minutes to fill out our survey and distribute it to other concerned parents and allergy sufferers? We feel that food allergies is a critical yet often overlooked issue that requires more awareness, and are very excited about what this product can potentially do to help protect those who are dear to us."
It's a really quick survey, and you'd be helping develop such a great product! Please feel free to pass the survey link along to anyone who may be interested in helping out.
To read about other research helping food allergy sufferers, check out "Desensitizing Peanut Allergies" and "Potential Breakthrough for Kids With Peanut Allergies."