Environment-Related Diseases on the Rise
By Bae Ji-sook
The number of people suffering from so-called environment-related diseases has increased by a million in four years.
The National Health Insurance Corporation reported Sunday that in 2008, over 7.1 million people were treated for asthma, allergic rhinitis, atopic eczema, among others, a drastic jump from 6.1 million in 2004.
The results were most alarming for those under 19 years old, who represented 42 percent of asthma patients, 37 percent of rhinitis sufferers and 71.6 percent of those with eczema.
Moreover, about one out of every four newly born babies (23.8 percent) suffered from asthma while 19.6 percent were diagnosed with allergic rhinitis and 17 percent suffered from atopic eczema.
Dr. Dhong Hun-jong at Samsung Medical Center told The Korea Times that more people are being exposed to pollutants, an unbalanced diet and other factors, which result in such diseases.
"More people are living in a too hygienic environment, which weakens the immune system, making the body fragile to allergens," he added.
Rep. Choi Young-hee of the opposition Democratic Party warned that such diseases should be treated intensively. "Asthma patients are classified as high-risk when it comes to Influenza A (H1N1) patients. They could easily develop complications or worsen the flu symptoms," she said.