Much to the surprise of many I used to be a childcare worker back in the day. It was a pretty cruisy job for a uni student like myself, being able to show up after classes, take care of kids for a few hours and then head off home to finish off my studies (or World of Warcraft, as it mostly was). I consider it a valuable experience for numerous reasons not least of which is an insight into some of the public health issues that arise from having a bunch of children all packed into tight spaces. The school which I worked at had its very first peanut allergy ever when I was first there and I watched as the number of children who suffered from it increased rapidly.
Whilst the cause of this increase in allergic reactions is still somewhat unclear it’s well understood that the incident rate of food allergies has dramatically increased in developed countries in the last 20 years or so. There are quite a few theories swirling around as to what the cause will be but suffice to say that hard evidence to support any of them hasn’t been readily forthcoming. The problem for this is the nature of the beast as studies to investigate one cause or the other are plagued with variables that researchers are simply unable to control. However for researchers at the King’s College in London they’ve been able to conduct a controlled study with children who were at-risk of developing peanut allergies and have found some really surprising results.
The study involved 640 children who were all considered to be at a high risk of developing a peanut allergy due to other conditions they currently suffered from (eczema and egg allergies) aged between 4 and 11 months. They were then randomly split into 2 groups, one whose parents were advised to feed them peanut products at least 3 times per week and the other told to avoid. The results are quite staggering showing that when compared to the control group the children who were exposed to peanut products at an early age had an 80% reduced risk in developing the condition. This almost completely rules out early exposure as a risk factor for developing a peanut allergy, a notion that seems to be prevalent among many modern parents.
Indeed this gives credence to the Hygiene Hypothesis which theorizes that the lack of early exposure to pathogens and infections is a likely cause for the increase in allergic responses that children develop. Whilst this doesn’t mean you should let your kids frolic in the sewers it does indicate that keeping them in a bubble likely isn’t protecting them as much as you might think. Indeed the old adage of letting kids be kids in this regard rings true as early exposure to these kinds of things will likely help more than harm. Of course the best course of action is to consult with your doctor and devise a good plan that mitigates overall risk, something which budding parents should be doing anyway.
It’s interesting to see how many of the conditions that plague us today are the results of our affluent status. The trade offs we’ve made have obviously been for the better overall, as our increased lifespans can attest to, however there seems to be aspects of it we need to temper if we want to overcome these once rare conditions. It’s great to see this kind of research bearing fruit as it means that further study into this area will likely become more focused and, hopefully, just as valuable as this study has proven to be.
I’ve never really been a big reader of books. Whilst I read through reading that was assigned to me during my studies I rarely ventured out and looked for books that might have intrigued me. In fact the only bit of leisure reading I’ve done in the past few years was Peter F. Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy which I enjoyed slowly over the course of a university year. The works that I have then read stick in my mind quite clearly and one of those was George Orwell’s 1984. I’ll admit that I did not seek this book out myself, but I still think it was the beginning of my journey into the world of politics and the path to my libertarianism.
For those of you who haven’t read it I’d highly recommend you do. The political commentary was a warning of what was to happen should we give a ruling government too much power. It would seem that while most people are familiar with the book its message goes almost completely unheard leading to situations like this:
Only one crime was solved by each 1,000 CCTV cameras in London last year, a report into the city’s surveillance network has claimed.
The internal police report found the million-plus cameras in London rarely help catch criminals.
In one month CCTV helped capture just eight out of 269 suspected robbers.
Whilst this is far from the dystopian future that Orwell painted for us the once untrodden path to his future is now looking a lot more clear, and I for one can’t stand to see it pass. Once granted power a government rarely gives it up and situations like the one in London are amongst the worst offenders in regards to impinging on personal freedoms.
Like the rhetorical catch cry “think of the children” many of the powers granted to governments are born out of the collective’s desire for safety. This was made extremely clear when the USA brought in the PATRIOT act in response to the September 11 attacks of 2001. The use of fear from external threats allows the government to eat away at the liberties of its people and it is with every small loss of liberty for the sake of “safety” that we step ever closer to our Orwellian future.
I think this is what attracted me initially to the no clean feed movement as I saw that once government brought such power down upon Australia at large the potential for abuse was just far too great. Talking amongst my close family I realised that unless the public at large is made aware that their freedoms are being chipped away in this fashion they will naively let it happen.
So I implore you, become involved in politics so that our freedoms are not sacrificed for the bolstering of government power. As Ed Howdershelt said:
“There are four boxes to be used in defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury, and ammo . Please use in that order.”