Schreiber Science: Much ado about peanuts

Aaron Bialer , Copy Editor

A significant amount of the student body does not like to eat lunch at a table, preferring to sit on the floor in one of the many cockroach frequented hallways around the school.

“I don’t know.  Something about dirty floors is just so much nicer than cafeteria chairs.  I mean, why eat food off a table when you can hunch over a plate on the floor?” said senior Ben Pan.

Since eating lunch in the atrium was banned, the administration has continued campaign against students eating in the hallways.

The newest strategy relies on the idea that the safety of students with airborne allergies, specifically to peanuts, may be compromised when students eat all throughout the school, instead of in two designated eating areas, the Commons and the cafeteria.

On the surface, this administrative crusade appears reasonable.  It is commonly known that students with severe peanut allergies, after eating peanuts, may suffer anaphylaxis, a rapid-onset whole body reaction that may result in throat inflation and death.

However, the extent of severe peanut reactions is often misconstrued.  In fact, the severity of airborne allergens may be greatly exaggerated.

In 2003, four clinical researchers conducted an experiment to test the results of casual skin contact or inhalation of peanut butter fumes on highly sensitive children with peanut allergies.  Thirty children underwent double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized exposures to peanut butter in one of the two ways.

For some, peanut butter was pressed flat on skin for one minute.  For others, a 6.3 inch square of peanut butter was held one foot away from the face for 10 minutes.

The researchers concluded with 96% confidence, a statistically significant percent, that at least 90% of highly sensitive children with peanut allergies in a casual exposure to peanut butter would not experience a systemic-respiratory reaction, an inflammatory state characteristic of anaphylaxis that affects the whole body.

Some subjects had skin reactions, such as erythema, which is the reddening of the skin, and pruritus, which is itchiness, but no major potentially fatal reactions occurred.The results may not prove true for other peanut products.

Do not repeat this experiment at home.

It is imperative to understand that while peanut allergies may not be as severe as thought upon contact or inhalation, allergies should remain a major concern.

“Peanut butter still has peanuts in it, so of course I try to stay away from people eating it,” said peanut-allergic senior Matt Brandes.

The administration may be under a false impression about the degree of peanut-resulting harm; however, students should still try to refrain from poisoning others.