Friday, May 30, 2003

Pool panic

'Asthma rise is linked to kids' wee in swim pools', proclaims the Sun, quoting research by Belgian scientists. 226 children were tested for the presence of proteins linked to lung problems. Those children who regularly swam in indoor pools had a higher level of such proteins. Moreover, the researchers looked at a previous study of 1881 children and found that regular pool attendance was associated with higher levels of asthma.

However, even the researchers do not think that their study is in any way conclusive. All that they suggest is that this is a new theory to explain the increasing prevalence of asthma, and that bigger studies should be done. There may well be an association between pool use and asthma, but it could be the opposite way around: asthma sufferers get taken to the pool because it is a form of exercise they seem to react less badly to.

Explaining the rising asthma statistics is unlikely to be that easy. Previous explanations suggested include: increasing traffic fumes reacting with sunlight, obesity, wall-to-wall carpets, margarine, stress, genes, passive smoking, bacteria, viruses, dust mites, central heating, furniture, pollen, pets, poor domestic hygiene, excessive domestic hygiene...the list goes on. It could even be that part of the problem is a redefinition of other conditions as asthma in recent years. Giving general advice about how to avoid asthma seems pretty much impossible.

Parents will understandably feel confused. They get told not to let their kids play outside for fear of being kidnapped by marauding paedophiles or getting run over by a speeding motorist. Now, if they take them to the pool for some safe, well-monitored exercise, they could, apparently, get asthma. And if the kids stay in their bedrooms, spending hours on their PlayStations and watching TV, they will supposedly end up obese with greater risk of diabetes and heart disease.

The Sun quotes mum-of-two Cathryn Allen on why she will continue to take her kids swimming. 'I wouldn't pay it much attention. If you took everything to heart you would never do anything with your kids.' A much healthier attitude.

Asthma rise 'link' to pool chemicals, BBC News, 28 May 2003

(originally published on spiked)

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