Researchers look at what's making our kids sick

Asthma, ADHD, cancer cases in children on the rise

Since 1980, asthma in the U.S. has increased by more than 75 percent. In just 11 years, diagnosis of ADHD in kids increased 381 percent. Cancer has doubled in kids in the last 20 years. So why are more kids being diagnosed with these serious illnesses more frequently? Leading female researchers find out what's making our kids so sick.

They rob kids of their focus, steal away their breath and even take their lives. So why are so many kids so sick? The cause could be all around us! Researchers from the University of California at Berkley found children with a type of leukemia known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, were twice as likely to have had three or more x-rays in their lifetime.

"Actually, the results surprised us because the dose in a normal x-ray, what we think of as a plain film x-ray, is fairly low," said Karen Bartley, a doctoral student in epidemiology at UC Berkeley.

In fact, the amount of radiation in a simple x-ray is about the same amount that passengers are exposed to in a flight across the U.S. In Fresno, California, one in three children have asthma and air pollution rates remain through the roof. A chemical found in air pollution called PAH may be to blame. When mothers were exposed, their children had DNA changes that increased their risk of asthma and the DNA change could impact their children's children.

"What was surprising to me in this research is to realize things that happen to our grandparents can then be transmitted to their grandchildren," said Kari Nadeau, M.D., Ph.D., at Stanford School of Medicine.

Another recent environmental study found children who are exposed to higher levels of organophosphate pesticides found in trace amounts on fruits and veggies, have twice the risk of being diagnosed with ADHD.

A second report found mothers with high levels of this pesticide in their urine were more likely to have children with the disorder. The research proves the effects of the environment may be long lasting.

The team involved in the leukemia research also found that tobacco smoking and the diets of both the mothers and fathers before the children were conceived affected their risk of developing leukemia.