Blaming Climate Change For Increasing Asthma Is Humbug – Another Irresponsible, Malicious Scare Story

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AsthmaAsthma – The New Climate Change Danger – Or is it?
By Ed Caryl

In the new state-by-state report from the White House, a new scourge caused by climate change has reared it’s ugly head. Asthma! (Gasp…choke…wheeze!).

In nearly every state, asthma seems to be the big concern, with hospital admissions and costs described in detail. No other disease is mentioned. Is Asthma the only disease that climate change is responsible for? Evidently. And Obama & Co. think it is really important we combat it.

Asthma has been around for as long as man has been around. The name is from the ancient Greeks. It is mentioned in Egyptian hieroglyphs, so it is clear that asthma cannot be solely caused by climate change. The implication is that warming has somehow made it worse.

Asthma is a disease caused by allergies. The allergens can be nearly anything in the environment. Outdoors, pollen is a famously common allergen in certain seasons. Indoors, the usual allergens are organic dusts of all kinds: Dust mites and their excreta, pet dander, mold, building materials that out-gas solvents, other chemicals, and gases, like sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide, formaldehyde, and in one citation, carbon dioxide. That CO2 could be an allergen seems very strange, as CO2 is present at about 4% concentration in every exhaled breath. If CO2 were an allergen, an asthmatic would not survive breathing. So simply raising the inhaled CO2 concentration from 300 to 400 parts per million in the air shouldn’t be a problem.

The answer is, of course, that the CO2 rise due to the normal rise in temperature as we warm from the Little Ice Age, has increased plant life, increasing pollen counts outdoors. Indoors, we now insulate all houses, and seal them against cold  in the winter and heat in the summer, this traps the indoor pollutants mentioned above. At least that is one theory.

But, why tie asthma to climate? First, it is very prevalent. Some 8% of Americans suffer from asthma. Everyone either has it or knows someone that has it. But does asthma rise to the top of everyone’s daily concerns? Probably not. Less than 0.1% of asthma sufferers die from it. According to the Center for Disease Control, of the 2,468,435 people that died in 2010, 3,404 died from asthma. That is 1.1 deaths per 100,000 people. When all the things you can die of are rank ordered, asthma is number 89, right below cancer of the larynx and above gall bladder disease. Breathing problems are only 4% of emergency room visits for both adults and children.

But let’s look at who gets asthma, and another possible reason for the increase. This is a chart of asthma prevalence and poverty level. (Source here.)

C1

Figure 1 is a part of a chart found here that describes who gets asthma. The top bar represents the prevalence of asthma in those poor at or below the poverty level, about 11%. The middle bar is the prevalence of asthma in those at or twice the poverty level, about 8.6%, and the bottom bar is the well-to-do that are above twice the poverty level, a bit over 7%.

So, asthma seems to be an affliction of the poor. Why is it increasing? Is it temperature change? Here are charts of U. S. temperature anomaly versus asthma prevalence.

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Figure 2a, Asthma prevalence and U. S. temperature anomaly in °F, and 2b, the corresponding scatter diagram with the R-squared value.

There doesn’t seem to be any relationship with climate. Perhaps the problem is in simply being poor. Here are the charts of food-stamp participation (SNAP) and asthma.

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Figure 3a, Asthma prevalence and SNAP participation, and 3b, the corresponding scatter diagram with the R-squared value.

It appears to this author that asthma is an economic problem, not a climate problem, and I thank the current government for drawing this to our attention. Poor people can’t afford to properly maintain their homes, so dust, mold, animal dander and other indoor pollutants build up and cause allergies, increasing asthma. Raising the cost of energy is not going to improve the situation, it can only make it worse.

This is just one more example of over-hyped rhetoric used in the climate change debate and how wrong-headed it can be. It is another attempt to invoke a monster under the bed. This time it turned out to be the wrong monster. I wonder what it will be next week.

Photo credit: http://www.youtube.com/MgI

 

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16 responses to “Blaming Climate Change For Increasing Asthma Is Humbug – Another Irresponsible, Malicious Scare Story”

  1. Blaming Climate Change For Increasing Asthma Is Humbug – Another Irresponsible, Malicious Scare Story | Cranky Old Crow

    […] Blaming Climate Change For Increasing Asthma Is Humbug – Another Irresponsible, Malicious Scare St…. […]

  2. Shaun P. Gardner

    Within the United States, African Americans and Latinos are four times more likely to suffer from severe asthma than whites. The disease is closely tied to poverty and poor living conditions.

  3. Nonoy Oplas

    Thanks Ed. Here in the Philippines, I read at least one or two news articles linking dengue with anthropogenic CC. Dengue affects thousands of people here every year, killing several dozens. It is an infectious disease borne by mosquitoes. The argument says that with CC, the wet becomes wetter (thus, lots of rain and flooding) and the dry becomes drier (thus, more mosquito population). So while the alarmists blame the mosquito expansion, they also blame “man-made” CC. If alarmism is set aside, it is easy to see where the problem is — in stagnant water inside or outside houses, like flower vase, dirty drainage, etc. It has little or nothing to do with AGW or ACC.

    1. Jimbo

      “The argument says that with CC, the wet becomes wetter (thus, lots of rain and flooding) and the dry becomes drier (thus, more mosquito population).”

      Haaaaa haaa haaa. 🙂 Now what is the evidence for dry and drier? Is Malaria on the rise? In fact dry is becoming greener and Malaria has been declining. LOL.

      “Climate change and the global malaria recession”
      http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v465/n7296/full/nature09098.html

      “CO2 fertilisation has increased maximum foliage cover across the globe’s warm, arid environments”
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50563/abstract

    2. Ed Caryl

      Here in the U. S. it isn’t dengue of course, it is West Nile Virus. Also a mosquito-borne disease, it is on the increase in the southern U. S., mostly because it is still spreading, having been unknown here in the past. There have been suggestions that the increase is due to warming.

      1. Jimbo

        Ed, thanks.
        I see West Nile Virus in Canada and parts of Russia. Is it warm enough in those areas for West Nile Virus? I also note very little for northern South America. I don’t have the time for deep checking at the moment (tired and a bit sleepy).
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Global_distribution_of_West_Nile_virus-CDC.gif

  4. mbabbit

    For a real challenge to this bizarre/insane CO2 demonization, you should explore the Buteyko breathing method created by the late Russian doctor, Konstatin Buteyko (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konstantin_Buteyko). He asserted that asthma is a result of the lack of CO2 in the body due to overbreathing. His reduced breathing method is aimed at increasing the amount of CO2 in the body by reducing the amount of exhalation of our breathing cycle. CO2 relaxes the smooth muscles (and dilates the blood vessels) and prevents the asthma attack. Many asthmatics use this technique as a complementary therapy. Also; look up the Bohr effect (Christian Bohr, Niels Bohr’s father) laid out in 1903: a lack of CO2 in the blood system doesn’t allow the O2 to be released by hemoglobin. CO2 is only dangerous in very high amounts and most people actually could use an atmosphere of slightly higher CO2 amounts.

  5. hein

    The numbers presented in this article look like striking evidence in favour of an economic link to asthma. But in germany, we know different numbers. In the former GDR asthma was virtually unknown while it was a problem in west germany. After the german reunion the prevalence for asthma rose in east germany while it was constant in west germany. Having only the ecconomic hypothesis in mind, this is realy hard to explain…

    1. Ed Caryl

      This might be explained by mbabbit above, due to the East Germans holding their breath. (sarc)

      1. hein

        The force is strong with you considering Bitterfeld…

    2. DirkH

      “In the former GDR asthma was virtually unknown”

      Unemployment was also virtually unknown. Do you trust DDR numbers? Why?

      1. DirkH

        Kuba has one of the highest life expectancies on Earth. Even though the hospitals for the native population (not for the tourists) look like they’ve run out of cleaner 50 years ago.

        Why?

        They don’t count newborns that die within 3 days after birth.

    3. Mindert Eiting

      This is a classic study. The medical hypothesis is that asthma is an auto-immune disease caused by a too sensitive immune system being too less exposed to a dirty environment during childhood. This should explain more asthma incidence in the cleaner environment of Western Germany compared with Eastern Germany. That was the explanation as far as I remember.

  6. Jimbo

    According to the World Health Organization cold air can trigger an asthma attack! Whoa?

    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs307/en/index.html

    Why has asthma been on the increase in the last several decades? The answer from the experts is:

    “We don’t know.”
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-are-asthma-rates-soaring&page=2

  7. John F. Hultquist

    Careful studies are showing links between chemical compounds and asthma. Shaun (above) seems to have seen the same report I saw awhile back. As Ed points out carbon dioxide isn’t a problem. It is the agent that actually triggers natural breathing.

    Many folks that smoke do not get lung cancer (80% ??). [My mother was in the 20%.] Yet research does show that smoking does – in many people – bring about fatal cancer. These are complicated issues so a single explanation, or a simple one, is unlikely.

    One source of pollutants that have been linked to asthma is auto and truck exhaust.
    http://articles.latimes.com/2013/mar/21/science/la-sci-sn-traffic-pollution-asthma-children-20130321

    There are lots of sources of pollutants in modern urban society. Some are found in products we spray on hair, body, pets, furniture; or pour on or into things – soaps and cleaners come to mind. Modern products such as glue, building products, home furnishings and the like give off chemicals.

    Anyway, the report from the White House, and anything else coming from there is – until further notice – considered to be false unless proven otherwise.

  8. Layne

    You know, I saw the list of documents (one for each state) produced by the Administration and saw that all referred to asthma stats.

    The argument is ridiculous no matter the logic, but I started thinking today the reason for the asthma connection is that the Nutters have long complained about a link they devised between coal emissions and asthma. I just did a quick check and read that SO2 was the imagined culprit.

    The fact is many of these power plants are in sparsely populated areas, but the nutters want us to believe the emissions affect others several states away.

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