Definition/Prevalence: Asthma is a common chronic (long-term) inflammatory disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, asthma occurs when the airways in the lungs (bronchial passages) become inflamed and constricted. That is, bronchial wall muscles tighten and narrow due to spasms, and extra mucus is produced which blocks the airways, causing a person to have difficulty breathing.
Common symptoms include: wheezing, chest tightening, shortness of breath, and a cough. For some people having asthma is a simple nuisance, but for others with severe asthma it can be life-threatening.
Doctors and epidemiologists are concerned by the alarming rise in the incidence of asthma. Rates of asthma since the 1980s have reached epidemic proportions. In fact, the CDC reports that over 16 million Americans suffer from asthma. For example, the CDC reports that one child out of eight has asthma. While only 3.6 % of children had asthma in 1980, more than 9% today are asthmatic. Moreover, children compared to adults are more susceptible to asthma. With underdeveloped lungs, this reduced lung size adds to their vulnerability when exposed to pesticides and other pollutants that are connected to asthma.
Moreover, asthma related deaths of children increased more than three times from 1979 to 1996.
Cited Studies: From Beyond Pesticides, in an article entitled “PESTICIDES AND PLAYING S: Are we unintentionally harming our children?” Eileen Gunn and Chip Osborne state the following: “Common herbicides, 2,4-D, mecoprop, dicamba (often found together as Trimec, a common fertilizer combination) and glyphosate (Round Up) are a respiratory irritant that can cause irritation to skin and mucous membranes, chest burning, coughing, nausea, and vomiting.” They also added that “a 2004 peer-reviewed study found that young infants and toddlers exposed to herbicides (weed killers) within the first year of their life were four and half more times more likely to develop asthma by the age of five, and almost two and half times more likely when exposed to insecticides.” What is particularly alarming is that “the National Academy of Sciences reports that children are more susceptible to chemicals than adults, and estimates that 50% of lifetime pesticide exposure occurs during the first five years of life.”
Source: National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, 1993, Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children, National Academy Press, Washington, DC: 184-185.
Furthermore, the “EPA concurs that children take in more pesticides relative to body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals.”
Source: A Beyond Pesticides fact Sheet “Children and Lawn Chemical Don’t Mix”
In this section, ASTHMA, the aforementioned statistics and research article summaries clearly indicate that children’s exposure to pesticides, including organophosphate insecticides and 2,4-D, does increase their risk for developing asthma. And, since it’s an environmental trigger we can control, in reducing our overall exposure to pesticides, fewer people will suffer with this disease.
ANTIGEN SENSITIZATION INFLUENCES ORGANOPHOSPHORUS PESTICIDE–INDUCED AIRWAY HYPERREACTIVITY. Proskocil, B.J. et.al,
Eighty percent of asthmatic children have increased sensitization to allergens including dust, dander and air pollution. This study revealed that sensitization to allergens produces airway hyperactivity to organophosphorus pesticides (OPs) in environmentally relevant doses. Thereby allergen sensitive children have an increased risk of an asthmatic episode by pesticide exposure. Common uses of OPs include applications on buildings, ornamental plants and lawns. Products containing OPs include Dursban and Lorsban (containing the OP chlorpyrifos), Spectracide (containing the OP diazinon), and Sevin (containing the carbamate carbaryl).
EARLY-LIFE ENVIRONMENTAL RISK FACTORS FOR ASTHMA: FINDINGS FROM THE CHILDREN’S HEALTH STUDY. Salam, M. et al.,
Environmental Health Perspectives, 112(6):760-765 (2004) http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2003/6662/6662.html
This study of early childhood onset asthma was conducted to determine whether environmental factors such as exposure to pesticides including herbicides would trigger asthma under the age of five. These authors conclude that, there is a significant increase in childhood asthma when exposed to these risk factors, especially pesticides. Compared to children never exposed to herbicides and other pesticides, those exposed before the age of one had a significantly higher risk of asthma. In fact, when herbicide and other pesticide exposures were measured together, those exposed within the first year of life had a 2.53 fold risk of developing asthma.
Burr ML et al., Thorax, 61:296-299 (2006) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16396947
The Welsh College of Medicine at Cardiff University reviewed data for three benchmark years and found that childhood asthma has increased fourfold between 1998 and 2003. This research team also found that the incidences of childhood asthma have not been in decline but, in fact, on the rise contrary to popular reports.