Study Attributes Infant Mortality in 19th Century to SIDS

by VR Sreeraman on  July 18, 2009 at 12:11 PM Child Health News   - G J E 4
 Study Attributes Infant Mortality in 19th Century to SIDS
The infant deaths caused in the 19th century, which had been attributed to smothering and overlaying by either a co-sleeper or bedding, were actually crib deaths or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), according to an expert.

Dr. Ariane Kemkes, an independent researcher from Scottsdale, Arizona, USA, says that lawmakers would have mislabelled these deaths as neglect and even infanticide, as SIDS had not been identified by then.

SIDS is the third most prominent cause of death among infants under a year old, accounting for 30-55 percent of infant deaths during their first year.

Although the specific causes of SIDS remain largely unknown, the infant's age, gender, race, neonatal history and sleep environment are recognized risk factors.

Historically, the sudden death of an apparently healthy baby during nighttime sleep would have been rationalized as accidental smothering or overlaying.

Lawmakers attributed smothering deaths to negligent caretakers and characterized infant-adult bed sharing practices as proof of parental incompetence.

Kemkes investigated if 19th century infant deaths attributed to smothering or overlaying shared the same characteristics as known SIDS cases.

For the study, she analysed data from the U.S. Federal Mortality Schedule from the years 1850-1880.

She found that, just like SIDS, smothering and overlaying deaths occurred primarily during the second to fourth month of the baby's life.

Such deaths were more likely in the late winter months and amongst boys, and there were more infant deaths among black babies.

"The study strongly supports the hypothesis that these infant deaths represent empirical evidence of 19th century SIDS mortality," concluded Kemkes.

The findings have been published online in Springer's journal Human Ecology.

Source: ANI

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Here in the UK, anyone can purchase sets of data from the Office for National Statistics which give the numbers of live births and the deaths at different ages for all electoral wards - ie the UK equivalent of US census tracts.

When I looked at the infant mortality rates subject to industrial PM2.5 emissions from incinerators, oil refineries, power stations, foundries etc. I found wards with very high infant death rates.

Electoral wards which are free from such emissions have very low infant death rates and sometimes zero infant deaths for the entire published fifteen year record of data, 1993 to 2007.

Black's Medical Dictionary for 1944 reveals that infant death rates are lowest in agricultural districts which suggests that those districts will have less exposure to the products of combustion which will be found in large towns and around power stations, steelworks, etc.

Dawn Shanafelt, of Saginaw County Public Health Department, is mapping infant death rates by US census tract as reported in Saginaw News, 27 April 2009.

Kind regards,
Michael Ryan BSc, C Eng, MICE

guest Saturday, July 18, 2009

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