By Paige Wallace, NCBA Communications
An article in today's Washington Post titled, "In California's Imperial County, Asthma Takes Severe Toll on Children," discusses the relationship between asthma and agricultural dust. Imperial County "spans nearly 4,600 square miles of mostly desert in the southeastern corner of California, just north of Mexico and west of Arizona. The county is hot and dry and depends largely on agriculture." It is this agricultural influence that has been the target of blame for an increase in asthma.
"Doctors and public health officials said that a combination of whipping winds, pesticide-tinged farmland dust and large numbers of low-income families lacking health insurance contribute to high rates of asthma hospitalizations and ER visits," states author Anna Gorman.
However extensive research has proven that this correlation is false. A several-year-old study by the National Jewish Medical Center in Denver found no correlation between dust and asthma in children. The study also offers reference to similar studies and criticizes those with opposing results.
An article from Drovers even supports the idea that children who live on a farm and grow up with regular exposure to dust, pollen, animals, manure and raw milk exhibit a more robust immune system compared with hygienic city life. A report from NPR notes that doctors suspect many children today grow up in conditions that actually are too sanitary. This “hygiene hypothesis” suggests kids growing up in ultra-clean environments and spending most of their time indoors are exposed to fewer germs and allergens early in life.