Anti-pesticide cranks responsible for elevated childhood asthma?

June 12, 2011

Crawling culprit seen in urban kids’ asthma

Researchers have identified cockroaches as a potential explanation for dramatic variations between neighborhoods in asthma rates among New York City children.

In some New York City neighborhoods, 19 percent — nearly 1 in 5 — children have asthma; in others, the rate is as low as 3 percent.

Heavy traffic, industrial incinerators, and other outdoor air pollution sources have been blamed in the past as potential contributors to asthma differences across the city.

Now, researchers at Columbia University have found that children living in neighborhoods with high rates of asthma were twice as likely to carry antibodies against a cockroach protein in their blood, a sign the kids had been exposed to the insects and were likely allergic to them.

In addition, homes in the neighborhoods with high rates of asthma contained more of the allergen produced by cockroaches in household dust.

This study provides “further evidence that cockroach exposure is part of the story,” study author Dr. Matthew Perzanowski told Reuters Health. “Cockroach allergen really could be contributing to disparities in asthma prevalence, even in an urban environment like New York City.”

These findings also suggest that controlling cockroaches may help eliminate some of those disparities, Perzanowski noted. (Reuters Health)

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