Am I on to something here, or is the still random data points?
August 24, 2010 7:46 AM   Subscribe

AllergenIDFilter: Is there a common denominator between (1) public water parks (2) Dawn dish detergent (3) water/sewer utilities?

I got insanely sick last winter working at a private utility (think office, but with parking for equipment and employees who worked with water & sewer infrastructure in the same building). I couldn't work in the office without a pollen mask, or I would start coughing. Eventually broke a rib from this. Symptoms have abated significantly about the same time I left companies, but I also started a new medication about the same time, so not conclusive.

However, now that I'm largely symptom-free, I still find myself getting lung-sticky & coughing when I'm around public water parks, and also when I blow bubbles for my kid (Dawn dish detergent). Part of me wants to go AHA! Chlorine! --but I'm no chemist. Am I right that this may be a clue to the original lung-torturing irritant? Is there a common denominator here?
posted by Ys to Health & Fitness (4 answers total)
pollen mask? that's not micron-size excluding like a respirator. was your water/sewer guy trailing in clouds of coarse powder?
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:44 AM on August 24, 2010

Response by poster: Don't know. But there was some testing done inside the building, and the sewer evac truck was stored & cleaned in the attached garage. The mask was one of those home depot cheapies recommended for sanding drywall & such, with a little air valve at the front. If I took it off for so much as a sip of water my nose would start to run like a fawcet & I would cough uncontrollably for hours.

No one else had any difficulties at that location, but my problems started shortly after I got the project & were dramatically reduced within 3 weeks of leaving the project. The excessive sensitivity may or may not have been touched off by food poisoning or illness (see THIS post for that gaudy mess), and at the height of the problem, I was allergy tested & found to have *huge* problems with 38 different common foods & environmental allergens (everything from carrots & beef to tea, corn & dust mites). This was never a noticeable problem before, and 5 months later I can eat and breath whatever I like with only occasional, very minor problems.
posted by Ys at 9:41 AM on August 24, 2010

Overabundance of chlorine, would be my guess as well. Water pipe needs to be prechlorinated before it's used, so there's likely a good bit of it lying around.
posted by electroboy at 10:13 AM on August 24, 2010

The MSDS for Dawn doesn't reveal anything particularly damning. In other words, you could be triggering other allergies by being outdoors while blowing bubbles, but there's no chlorine in Dawn. (On the other hand, mixing bleach with Dawn is a big no-no)

Those cheap home depot masks won't protect you against anything smaller than sawdust (and even that's debatable). They don't really even come close to providing an airtight seal or filtering out small particles. Any benefit you saw from them was likely a placebo.

A reaction to chlorine is very specific, and distinctive. Also, given chlorine's properties as an oxidizer, it doesn't stick around in the atmosphere for very long, unless there's something replenishing it. If you leave a pot of chlorinated water out in the open, all of the chlorine will bubble out of it over the course of a few hours.

My guess: Mold.
posted by schmod at 11:38 AM on August 24, 2010

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