The Asthma Riddle is no $urprise to Us…

April 13th, 2004

To the Editor,

This article is a wake up call to Americans. However, it omits one essential question. Why are we spending so much money on consumer goods and services that trigger or cause asthma and reactive airway disease? Our product labels tell us almost nothing about our products since full disclosure on product labels is not legally required in the USA as it is in many European countries.

However, the MSDS sheets on products offer a wider vision. Still incomplete, they provide details of the hazardous properties for disclosed ingredients, e.g. detergents, fabric softeners and household cleaners often contain petrochemicals and alcohol esters which are respiratory irritants and non-essential to product efficacy. Synthetic fragrances are reported to be asthma triggers for the majority of sufferers by the American Lung Association. Why are they not banned from use in our schools and offices to maximize productivity when 25 million Americans have respiratory problems?

Industry is fond of citing cockroach remains as triggering asthma but fails to tell us that broadcast spraying of pesticides distributes highly toxic particles with severe adverse effects on pulmonary, digestive and neurological systems. The contamination may last for months or years in carpets, clothing and upholstery. Pesticides were developed for use on crops with sunlight to help degrade them. Indoors, residues can again become airborne from application of heat and cleaning efforts. Why can’t we get a bill passed in congress that allows parents and teachers to be told in advance when pesticides of this nature are to be sprayed in schools or even restrict the use of pesticides to effective products which do not become airborne? Asthma is the major cause of absenteeism in schools.

Industry profits from developing medicines to help asthma (ineffective for many sufferers) but also profits from the sale of chemical used in marketed products which can provokes asthma attacks. The public needs to demand full disclosure of ingredients when making purchases so we can determine the risk/reward curve for ourselves in spending our dollars. Asthma is a symptom of our national health crisis and we can effect changes in this state of affairs with knowledge and using our power as consumers.

Barbara Rubin

Categories: Boston Globe

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