NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

EPA Looks For Asthma Solution In Wrong Place

June 30, 1998

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency established a panel to assess the most important children's health issues today. The Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee, as it is known, identified asthma as among the five most important issues -- and zeroed in on the danger of pesticides.

But experts believe pesticides are not the problem with asthma -- and, indeed, may be part of the solution. Here's why:

  • The EPA's own data show air pollution levels have steadily declined just when cases of asthma have skyrocketed.
  • Fifteen million Americans now suffer from asthma and doctors' office visits involving asthma doubled between 1975 and 1995.
  • A study of the causes of asthma published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year identified the disease's cause in American inner-cities -- where asthma rates are the highest -- as actually the inhalation of dried cockroach excrement.
  • Yet the EPA is considering limiting or banning many organophosphates and carbamates -- two types of pesticides that are potent cockroach killers.

Even though 30 years' use has shown these chemicals to pose very little danger to humans, the EPA committee on children has voiced concern about the use of both pesticides. David Rosenstreich, the primary author of the Journal study, says blaming air pollution for asthma "is political, not medical."

Source: Michael Fumento (Atlantic Foundation), "Pesticides Are Not the Main Problem," New York Times, June 30, 1998.


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