Allergy sufferers and canaries may not have yellow feathers in common but they do share extreme sensitivity to pollutants and chemicals in the environment.
That’s why my husband began calling me “canary” years ago after I suffered a severe allergic/asthmatic reaction to a chemical he was using in a home improvement project. He called 911 because I couldn’t breathe.
His explanation for my new nickname was that canaries too have trouble breathing when exposed to chemicals and gases. Tobacco smoke, lacquers, perfumes and air pollution are just a few of the irritants that bring out the “canary” in me.
Back in the 1700s, miners used to take canaries into coal mines to test the air quality. They knew to evacuate the coal mine fast if a canary, who normally sings and chirps all day long, became quiet. It meant the bird was having trouble breathing because carbon monoxide levels were high in the mine.
Today allergy/asthma sufferers are the “canaries” we should be watching to access the quality of our environment.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that there may be a problem with our environment and food supply when the number of allergy/asthma sufferers or “canaries” is growing by leaps and bounds.
Twice as many people in the United States suffer from allergies as did 30 years ago, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
More than fifty percent of the population tested positive to one or more allergens in the largest national study, conducted by the National Institute of Health. Similar increases were reported in Britain, Sweden, Japan and other industrialized countries.
The world’s asthma rate is rising as well. The number of people with asthma has grown nearly 74 percent since 1980.
Doctors and other experts were at a loss in explaining the rising tide of allergy and asthma sufferers. The reason is “not understood,” they said in the report.
Those of us who are “canaries” can offer an explanation without doing an expensive, time-consuming study.
Global warming, along with ever-increasing air pollution and carbon emissions, might just be part of the reason. Foods, as well, are heavily doctored up with preservatives and chemicals.
Allergy/asthma sufferers need to do a lot more “singing and chirping” to raise the level of awareness about the need to improve the quality of the environment and food supply. Start by writing legislators and government leaders. Talk to friends, colleagues and family members.