The Science of Sustainability

Producer's Notes: Asthma

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coho salmonThe rate of asthma in children younger than five increased 160
percent between 1980 and 1994.

When I set out to produce a QUEST story on the latest research on the causes of childhood asthma, I didn't expect to discover how little researchers know about this question. They do understand the lung disease's mechanisms: a chronic inflammation of the airways causes an overreaction to allergens like pollen and dust mites, which in turn brings on symptoms like wheezing, coughing and a dangerous tightening of the chest and shortness of breath.

But asthma researchers are still very much working to figure out what, besides changes in the way asthma is diagnosed, might account for the 160 percent rise in the rate of asthma in children younger than 5 that took place between 1980 and 1994. Our QUEST TV story looks at one interesting hypothesis, called the "hygiene hypothesis." The hypothesis proposes that as certain types of bacteria have become less and less present in our lives, we have developed allergic diseases in response.

I also asked researchers if their findings allowed them to make recommendations to parents on what they might be able to do to help reduce the risk of their children developing asthma. Although our two interviewees were careful to caution how little scientists know with certainty at this point, they were willing to venture some advice, which you'll see in our Web-only video.


Watch the Asthma television story online.


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Category: Biology, Health, Sustainable Health

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Gabriela Quirós

About the Author ()

Gabriela Quirós is a TV Producer for KQED Science & Environment. She started her journalism career in 1993 as a newspaper reporter in Costa Rica, where she grew up. She won two national reporting awards there for series on C-sections and organic agriculture, and developed a life-long interest in health reporting. She moved to the Bay Area in 1996 to study documentary filmmaking at the University of California-Berkeley, where she received master’s degrees in journalism and Latin American studies. She joined KQED as a TV producer when QUEST started in 2006 and has covered everything from Alzheimer’s to bee die-offs to dark energy. She has shared two regional Emmys, and four of her stories have been nominated for the award as well. Independent from her work on QUEST, she produced and directed the hour-long documentary Beautiful Sin for PBS, about the surprising story of how Costa Rica became the only country in the world to outlaw in-vitro fertilization.
  • emily polon

    PLEASE! If only someone would have mentioned that the mother was already doing the best thing she could do for her child's lifelong health. She was breastfeeding. The intestinal lining of a human baby's stomach is configurated to accept the first milk, colostrum, so that the lining protects against bad flora and provides the LIFELONG benefits of Immunoglobulins. The intestines do not accept cow milk protein which then results in improper digestion and absorption, thus the wrong bacteria flourish. Oh, this is the basis of what the study was investigating!