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May 7, 2009

BehindTheMedspeak: Asthmap uses GPS-enabled inhalers to map asthma hotspots

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Interesting mashup.

From Jared Newman's April 13, 2009 GearCrave story:

"David Van Sickle, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is looking for a better way to hunt down [asthma] triggers. His team of students will use GPS technology, embedded in patients’ inhalers, to locate triggers around campus, hopefully uncovering previously unknown environmental factors for the lung disease."

"Known risk factors  don’t fully explain asthma’s prevalence. An example: one outbreak of asthma attacks in Barcelona throughout the 1980s baffled scientists who were looking for all the usual triggers. But after eight years of reports from the victims, they traced the source to the city’s waterfront. Soybean dust — once unsuspected as a trigger — was ultimately flagged as a serious threat to asthmatics."

From Susan Lampert Smith's April 2, 2009 University of Wisconsin-Madison News article:

"An epidemic of severe asthma ... struck Barcelona throughout the 1980s. On more than 20 days, emergency rooms were overwhelmed with people having severe, and sometimes fatal, asthma attacks.

"'Barcelona put together a group of scientists to look at the meteorology, climatology, and levels of standard air pollutants and pollens in the city, but there wasn’t anything exceptional about those days,' [Van Sickle] says."

"Finally, they asked where the patients had been when they got sick: All reported that their symptoms started near the waterfront. Further investigation showed that the port had been unloading giant heaps of soybeans from container ships.

"'The victims were exposed to massive clouds of soybean dust because the appropriate filters weren’t installed in harbor silos,' he says. 'It took the group nearly eight years to prove, but it was the first time soybean dust had been shown to be a potent allergen.'







May 7, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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