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Childhood Asthma Rates Level Off

Posted on January 11, 2016 by Jeanne Roberts There have been 0 comments

For most children living in the United States, asthma rates seem to have peaked before 2013, at 9.7 percent, and then fallen to 8.3 percent, according to Lara Akinbami of the National Center for Health Statistics, or NCHS. The NCHS is a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, the operating arm of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

The Study

The study, published in the January issue of Pediatrics, followed children from birth to 17 years, and from 1998 to 2013. Akinbami and colleagues used data only from 2001 to 2013, adjusting for gender, age, economic status, demographics (urban vs. rural), and geographic region (Deep South, Midwest, West Coast, etc.).

Final statistics showed that asthma rates leveled – and sometimes fell – among all groups except non-Hispanic African-American children in the poorest families. In fact, according to the report, the prevalence of asthma among African-American children remains at 14, compared with about 8 percent for white children. African-American children are also much more likely than white children to suffer serious complications.

The Causes

The reasons for the 1980-2013 increases remain mysterious. Researchers suspect factors like exposure to secondhand smoke, obesity, and children's immune systems failing to develop properly. The last is clearly a product of inadequate prenatal and early childhood nutrition, often found in low-income families.

The reasons for the overall decline, however, remain mysterious, at least to the researchers. Though clues might lie in the Air Quality Trends statistics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. These show that, from 1980 to 2014, lead particulate declined by 99 percent; carbon monoxide (CO) declined by 69 percent; sulfur dioxide by 81 percent; nitrogen dioxides by approximately 55 percent; particulate matter (10 micrometers or larger) by 58 percent; and particulates 2.5 micrometers or smaller by 33 percent.

It’s all good news – for us, for our children, and for our environment. The Clean Air Act, so hotly debated for decades between environmentalists and health professionals on one hand, and the energy industry on the other, is finally seeing its fulfillment in Obama’s Clean Power Plan. We can all start to breathe deep again.

Indoor Air, Another Story

Indoor air, however, continues to reach uncomfortably high levels of pollutants, especially in older buildings, heavily occupied buildings (offices, schools, factories), and in tall buildings – where rising air tends to concentrate at upper levels. This air pollution is, according to an October 2015 report from Harvard, actually reducing our intelligence, as excess carbon dioxide starves brain cells and also makes us weak, tired, and sick.

What Parents Can Do

There isn’t much we can do about our schools or workplaces – at least not on an individual or family level, but we can monitor the air inside our homes, condos and apartments. Where air quality is poor, we can also filter and clean the air in ways our technology-poor ancestors could not. And this superior technology is available for less than the cost of a good flat-screen television set (and far less than the cost of remedial tutoring if your offspring isn’t getting the grades).

This post was posted in Blog and Green Library, Health and Safety, The Air We Breathe and was tagged with air cleaner, Air pollution, air quality testing, asthma, carbon monoxide, CDC, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


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