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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Does pollution cause asthma?

There is a lot going around these days that pollution is the cause of asthma. While asthma rates are marginal in 3rd world nations, they are growing in industrialized nations, particularly large cities like New York and Chicago. The question I would like to toss out today is this: is pollution the real culprit?

Now, unlike some people, I have no bias either way. If asthma is caused by pollution it’s caused by pollution. But before I come to any conclusion I like to have all the facts on the table. I don’t like to believe in one theory over another just because one makes me feel better, or is more popular.

Is pollution the cause of asthma? Lets look at the facts.

You can look back at the 1800s when there was horse poop on the streets, coal and wood fires burning in every household, smoke billowing through the air. If you take a deep breath you can smell the smoke, smell the poop. I’m sure all this had a negative impact on any asthmatic in the day.

If you listen you can hear flies buzzing around your head as they swoop down to lay another egg on the horse dung. Whatever diseases they are spreading you can only imagine.

Today, however, we have no such horse poop. We have far fewer coal and wood fires, although they do still exist. However, the horse poop is exchanged for car fumes.

In the 1800s, however, there was no technology available to clean the air. There were no filters. There were no concerns about air pollution. You simply didn’t think about it. But was there less air pollution in 1888 than today. Who knows?

However, we do know that there were still volcanoes that erupted and caused holes in the ozone much larger than any nuclear explosion man has ever made. We know that as a fact. We know that there have always been holes in the ozone. So any bad rays that get through now have always gotten through.

So recent studies that show that asthmatics who are exposed to ozone are more likely to have a decrease in lung function may not necessarily show that this is a new phenomenon.

Based on what I just wrote we have zero evidence that pollution is the cause of asthma, and no evidence that it is not. What we have hear is some groundwork to show that pollution existed long before industrialized nations, and we must not come to a harsh conclusion just because it’s convenient or obvious or popular.

I have been doing a lot of writing lately about asthma. This disease is a major conundrum for scientists in that it has been around longer than most diseases in recorded history and we are just now beginning to understand it.

Considering this long history, there have been a lot of truths, and a lot of false information to go with those truths. In the 1800s, for example, scientists educated doctors that asthma was definitely a psychosomatic disease, "that the disease is all in the head of the asthmatic."

Well, now we know that "theory" was pure poppycock --fiction. Sure stress can act as an asthma trigger, but it cannot cause asthma. Despite this truth, millions of hours and lots of cash was spent in an effort to treat asthma as a mental disorder.

Recently, with the high rates of air pollution, many scientists have been teaching that air pollution may be a cause of asthma. Yet new theories have been created that challenge the pollution theory.

A new theory – called the Hygiene Hypothesis – notes that the cause of asthma may be just the opposite of what the pollution theory postulates: that asthma is caused not because of pollution, but because we are too clean.

It may not be popular to go against the pollution theory, but that's exactly what RT philosophers like myself are not getting paid to do.

Stay tuned, keep your mind open, and I’ll continue to discuss this in the days to come.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awright, stop that right now!! You're not PAID to think, just to mindlessly do what you're told and acept the blame should something go wrong, you KNOW better!!