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Planet Ark World Environment News Lifestyle may be to blame for rise in asthma - study

Date: 19-Nov-02
Country: USA

An expert at the annual convention of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology said on Friday a rise in asthma cases may be linked, in part, to cleanliness and abundance.

"In the best countries in the world, the ones that have the cleanest air, the best food, the best vaccinations, the incidence of allergy and asthma is at its highest," said physician Bob Lanier, the organization's president.

"And in fact the places in the world that have the lowest quality of life issues - dirty air, pollution, unvaccinated, not enough calories, poor - they have the lowest incidence," he said.

"China, for example, has an incidence of asthma of 2 percent, while in this country, it's up in the twenties, and growing."

The number of U.S. children suffering from asthma, a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs, rose from 6.8 million in 1980 to 14.6 million in 1996, and up to 17.3 million in 1999, according to the Public Health Policy Advisory Board, a non-profit health advocacy group.

Research has suggested that some of the increase is due to indoor air contaminants and second-hand cigarette smoke.

It is likely, Lanier said, that obesity, another affliction of abundance, particularly in the United States, is a factor.

"I think that the more obese people get the more likely they are to have these kinds of problems," he said.

There are also indications that exposure to illnesses associated with poverty and lack of hygiene reduce the asthma rate, Lanier added.

"Children with certain infections seem to have lesser incidence of allergy and asthma than children who don't."

"It does seem to be odd that we are seeing so much of it (asthma) in industrialized countries," Lanier said.

"Maybe we live too cleanly," he said.

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