Health: Asthma toll begins to fall

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The Independent Online
Death rates from asthma in England and Wales have turned the corner and are heading downwards after years of increasing prevalence, according to research published yesterday.

Analysis of death certificates shows that mortality from asthma peaked for most age-groups in 1989, and is now declining by about 6 per cent per year, probably as a result of improved medical treatment.

But the over-65s have missed out on the improvement, with death rates dropping by only 2 per cent for the 65-74 age group and not at all for the over-75s, revealed the Southampton University study, published in the British Medical Journal.

Meanwhile, separate research published in The Lancet suggests that one in five cases of asthma may now be caused by exposure to chemicals in the workplace.

Around 250 chemicals and powders have been shown to cause work-related asthma, and employees are at risk in a wide range of occupations.

Among the risky substances are: henna, for hairdressers; coffee bean dust, for coffee roasters; flour, for bakers; cobalt dust, for metal grinders; and oil mists, for tool setters.