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Is the city making us sick?

Does living in the city make us more prone to allergies? A recent study suggests that city dwellers are more likely to suffer from illness and allergies than those who lives outside of the city.

New research coming out of Finland which was published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” shows that a lack of contact with nature may be leading to more city dwellers developing allergies and asthma.

This is based on the fact that while outdoors people come in contact with a variety of beneficial bacteria.

Ilkka Hanski, report co-author, told BBC News:

“There are microbes everywhere, including in the built environment, but the composition is different between natural environments and human-built areas. The microbiota in natural environments is more beneficial for us. They are important for...the normal development of the immune system.”

According to the report gammaproteobacteria, found with greater prevalence in forests and agricultural land than in built environment, had a particularly important function:

“Our study showed that the more you had of this particular gammaproteobacteria on your skin then you had a immunological response which is known the suppress inflammatory responses to pollen, animals, etc.”

So what does this all mean for city dwellers? The one thing that this report does highlight is that green spaces in the urban environment is very important. The more green spaces the easier it is for urbanites to come in contact with nature.

It also suggests that society’s need to get rid of every germ in our living spaces isn’t the best option as we do need to come in contact with some of them to build up our immune systems.


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