Canadian mother Donna Giustizia, motivated by the dangers surrounding childhood nut allergies, is on a mission to have the oak trees near her kid’s school removed. Her reasoning? She believes that the acorns that frequently drop from these trees put children with severe allergies at risk.
The oaks are present on property which is owned by the City of Vaughan, Canada; the land is right next to St. Stephen Catholic Elementary School, where one of her children attends. While this educational facility is nut-free, Giustizia believes that the acorns just outside of its doors are a deadly danger that also needs to be addressed.
“A false sense of security is putting a sign on the door that says nut-free and there’s nuts all over the place,” Giustizia proclaimed. “I’m not a crazy mom, I’m not asking for anything that’s not already there.”
She took her arguments to the local government last week, where she appealed for removal of the trees. While officials listened intently, they also expressed concern about what sort of precedent a removal of the trees would set. If an authorization is made to cut them down, then other citizens may appeal for their removal in other areas — a cumbersome and potentially costly domino effect. The city is currently preparing an investigative report on the issue.
In her appeal to appear before the committee, Giustizia noted her fears about the tree nuts. She said that the acorns are “becoming a great cause of anxiety amongst all students with tree allergies.” Curiously, she also noted that they “can also be used to bully and torment children.”
Experts weighed in on the mother’s claims. Dr. Paul Keith of McMaster University noted that acorns are not generally ingested in the U.S., thus, while it’s possible for those allergic to tree nuts to react, it’s rare.
“The only situation I could see is if they were bullied and forced to eat them,” he told TheStar.com. “You really have to eat them to have a reaction.”
Pediatric allergist Dr. Maria Asper added that she’s not sure there’s any real danger so long as the nuts aren’t ingested.
“I’m not aware of any reports of children having an anaphylactic reaction upon contact with acorns, so I’m not sure what the risk really is,” she said.
In an interview with ABC News, Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director of asthma and allergy care at New York University, echoed this sentiment. Simply playing with acorns, he said, would likely not pose a danger.
“There’s no relationship between acorns and peanuts. If people have food allergies, they need to work with an allergist on prevention, avoidance and preparedness,” he concluded. “People with food allergies need to be careful and have a plan.”
St. Stephen Catholic has said that it will respect whatever decision is made by Vaughan officials.
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