Distribution of peanut allergen in the environment

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004 May;113(5):973-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2004.02.035.


Background: Patients with peanut allergy can have serious reactions to very small quantities of peanut allergen and often go to extreme measures to avoid potential contact with this allergen.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to detect peanut allergen under various environmental conditions and examine the effectiveness of cleaning agents for allergen removal.

Methods: A monoclonal-based ELISA for Arachis hypogaea allergen 1 (Ara h 1; range of detection, 30-2000 ng/mL) was used to assess peanut contamination on cafeteria tables and other surfaces in schools, the presence of residual peanut protein after using various cleaning products on hands and tabletops, and airborne peanut allergen during the consumption of several forms of peanut.

Results: After hand washing with liquid soap, bar soap, or commercial wipes, Ara h 1 was undetectable. Plain water and antibacterial hand sanitizer left detectable Ara h 1 on 3 of 12 and 6 of 12 hands, respectively. Common household cleaning agents removed peanut allergen from tabletops, except dishwashing liquid, which left Ara h 1 on 4 of 12 tables. Of the 6 area preschools and schools evaluated, Ara h 1 was found on 1 of 13 water fountains, 0 of 22 desks, and 0 of 36 cafeteria tables. Airborne Ara h 1 was undetectable in simulated real-life situations when participants consumed peanut butter, shelled peanuts, and unshelled peanuts.

Conclusion: The major peanut allergen, Ara h 1, is relatively easily cleaned from hands and tabletops with common cleaning agents and does not appear to be widely distributed in preschools and schools. We were not able to detect airborne allergen in many simulated environments.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allergens / analysis*
  • Antigens, Plant
  • Arachis / adverse effects*
  • Arachis / immunology*
  • Detergents
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Glycoproteins
  • Hand Disinfection
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Plant Proteins / adverse effects
  • Plant Proteins / analysis
  • Plant Proteins / immunology


  • Allergens
  • Antigens, Plant
  • Ara h 1 protein, Arachis hypogaea
  • Detergents
  • Glycoproteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Plant Proteins