Since people with peanut allergy can have an allergic reaction after exposure to very small quantities of peanut allergen, scientists investigated the presence of the peanut allergen and how well different cleaning agents worked to remove it.
To measure the amount of peanut allergen, scientists measured levels of Ara h 1 -- the major peanut allergen -- in the air, on cafeteria tables, and on other surfaces in six area preschools. They found Ara h 1 on 1 out of 13 water fountains, and none on desks (22) or cafeteria tables (36).
Scientists simulated real-life peanut exposure by having 19 nonallergic volunteers eat peanuts and peanut butter in a cafeteria setting. No airborne Ara h 1 was detected.
Researchers also looked at methods for cleaning Ara h 1 from surfaces. They found that common household cleaning agents, such as Formula 409®, Lysol® Sanitizing Wipes, and Target brand® cleaner with bleach, removed peanut allergen from tabletops (except for dishwashing liquid, which left traces of the allergen on 4 out of 12 tables).
For removal of peanut allergens from hands, liquid soap, bar soap, and commercial wipes were very effective. Plain water and antibacterial hand sanitizer left detectable levels of peanut allergen on 3 out of 12 and 6 out of 12 hands, respectively.
Based on their observations, researchers conclude that Ara h 1 is easily cleaned from hands and surfaces and does not appear to be widespread on cafeteria tables or desks in preschools and schools. Airborne peanut allergen was not detected, despite testing levels in multiple simulated environments, but more research needs to be done in order to make firm conclusions about exposure to peanut allergens in schools.
1. Distribution of peanut allergen in the environment. Perry TT, Conover-Walker MK, Pomes A, Chapman MD, Wood RA. J.Clin Immunol, Vol. 113, No. 5.