University of Iowa researchers have found kids who live on hog farms are more likely to suffer from asthma. Doctor James Merchant, dean of the University of Iowa College of Public Health, led the study. Merchant says there’s a “statistically significant” difference in the asthma rates for kids who live on a farm where hogs are raised. About 26 percent of kids on farms without pigs suffer from asthma or its symptoms, but the study found 44 percent kids living around pigs “showed evidence of asthma.” When antibiotics are added to swine feed, kids on a swine farm are even more likely to suffer from a respiratory disease. Merchant says having antibiotics added to swine feed may be an indicator of the size of the farm, as larger livestock operations are more apt to have antibiotics in what’s fed to the hogs. Fifty-six percent of the kids living near swine operations that fed antibiotics to the pigs through their feed showed symptoms of asthma. “Quite a striking finding,” according to Merchant. The researchers made their conclusions after studying the health records of six-hundred-44 kids, ranging from babies to 17 year olds. All of the kids involved in the study live in Keokuk County. Parents who’re raising kids near any kind of livestock confinement operation need to be aware of the increased risk of asthma, according to Merchant. He recommends removing chore clothes before entering the home and suggests parents with kids who have asthma consider limiting their kids’ time in and around the confinement, or even keep the asthmatic kids out of the confinement all together. He says smoking in the house and having a pet cat can also trigger asthma attacks. This new asthma-and-swine connection has just been published in a scientific journal. Seven other University of Iowa researchers as well as scientists from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado State University and the Kaiser health and insurance company were also involved in the study. You can read the study on-line at http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2004/7240/7240.pdf.