Why do so many children develop asthma and allergies?
Published Sunday, March 9, 2014 10:47PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, March 9, 2014 11:42PM EDT
Canadian researchers say the dramatic increase in asthma and allergy rates among young children may be linked to environmental factors.
For their "Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development" study, or CHILD for short, scientists are keeping track of 3,500 children living in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Hamilton, Ont. These young subjects, all of whom were born after 2010, are helping researchers understand why so many young children across Canada are developing allergies and asthma.
"Really it's happening too quickly for it to be a simple problem of genetics," CHILD study researcher Meghan Azad told CTV News.
"Our genes don't evolve that fast, so it's got to be something in our environment."
Azad is one of 44 researchers across Canada taking part in the longitudinal study, which will be completed in two years.
"The CHILD study has asked questions about environment from pregnancy through childhood, and made home inspections collecting house dust for measurements including allergens and mold," the study's website explains.
Around the world, as many as 250 million people suffer from food allergies, the World Allergy Organization estimates.
"The occurrence of food allergies continues to rise in both developed and developing countries – especially in children where the incidence is estimated to be five to eight per cent compared to adults at one to two per cent," the WAO said in statement.
And it's not just food allergy rates that have been skyrocketing. Global asthma rates rates are also on the rise.
According to the European Lung Foundation, the prevalence of asthma has increased 50 per cent every ten years over the past 40 years. In Canada, the Asthma Society of Canada estimates three million people have asthma.
To unravel the mystery behind the rapid rise in asthma and allergy rates, researchers taking part in CHILD have been tracking their tiny subjects since birth. They are collecting everything from cord blood to stool samples to examine how genetic predisposition and environmental factors can influence the development of allergies and asthma.
"We're collecting information about maternal stress because they think that plays an important role," CHILD researcher Rishma Chooniedass told CTV News. Chooniedass adds that their subjects’diet is also being examined.
Once completed, researchers believe the study will also shed light on other problems currently on the rise, including childhood obesity, diabetes and cardio vascular disease.
With a report from CTV’s Winnipeg Bureau Chief Jill Macyshon