Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Mysterious Asthma Epidemic

According to a recent column at the New York Times, asthma rates are up 60 percent among children since 1980, and no one seems to know why. In children under the age of 5, asthma rates have soared 160 percent between 1980 and 1994. In total, 20 million Americans suffer from asthma.

Why the spike? No one seems to know. According to the Times…
  • It's not genetics. The rise in rates has occurred too fast.
  • It's not cigarette smoke. Parents smoke less these days.
  • It's not air pollution. Air pollution is down in the U.S. since 1980.
  • It's not obesity. Studies have failed to find a link.
  • It's probably not the changing diet of expecting mothers. Studies have also failed to find a link there.

Two other interesting theories, that have not yet been proven, are hyper-hygiene and antibiotics. Regarding hygiene, it could be that homes are so clean these days, kids immune systems are not developing properly. As far as antibiotics, maybe increased use in recent decades is changing body chemistry for the worse. This reminds me of earlier concerns that antibacterial soap may cause super-germs to develop.

Whatever it is, it could be years before scientists figure out what's going on. One suggestion for researchers: when in doubt,
blame TV.

About Me

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.