The obesity epidemic is boarding America's buses: The Federal Transit Administration recently proposed regulatory changes to account for the increased weight of the average passenger (175 pounds instead of 150) and the floor space that standing passengers occupy (1.75 square feet instead of 1.5).
It's no secret that the United States is struggling with a seriously weighty issue: 34 percent of U.S. adults are now obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC); adults are on average 25 pounds heavier than they were in 1960. Even worse, obesity rates are skyrocketing among children. Over the last 30 years, the rate among preschoolers age 2 to 5 doubled, to 10 percent, and among adolescents 12 to 19, more than tripled, to 18 percent.
But obesity - defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater - isn't just affecting our bus system. Here's a look at surprising ways it's impacting everything from ambulances to bras.
Old size: 800-pound maximum capacity
Super size: 1,600-pound maximum capacity
American Medical Response, the largest ambulance company in the United States, serving 39 states, first introduced bariatric ambulances in 2001. Their cots can accommodate up to 1,600 pounds, compared to older models that hold up to 800 pounds. Texas ambulance service provider Medstar upgraded most of its fleet of industry standard Ford chassis to accommodate obese patients in March 2011. Medstar's new Chevy ambulances can hold a total of up to 12,300 pounds, up from the 11,500 weight limit of the older vehicles.
Old size: 34B
Super size: 36D
Women's chest sizes have been growing along with their waistlines. Since the mid-1980s, American women have gone up one band size and two cup sizes. Fifty years ago, bra cup sizes were limited to A through D or DD, but now heavy-chested women can shop for bras with K, L, and even up to O cups, says Karen Bromley, spokesperson for the Intimate Apparel Council, and lingerie shops are seeing an uptick in sales of these larger-size bras. Last year, almost a quarter of all bras sold in Intimacy stores were for a size G and up, according to founder Susan Nethero. Ten years ago, the store did not even stock those larger sizes.
3. Stronger Operating Tables
Old size: 700-pound maximum capacity
Super size: 1,200-pound maximum capacity
As Americans get heavier, hospital equipment must become stronger. The maximum weight that surgical tables can hold has increased by about 500 pounds over the last 10 or so years, according to Novation, one of the largest healthcare supply providers in the country.
Old size: 24 inches wide
Super size: 52 inches wide
Coffin sizes have been increasing over the last 40 years, according to Casket & Funeral Supply Association of America (CFSA), a trade association for the funeral supply industry based in Lake Bluff, Illinois. The old standard-sized coffin of 24 inches wide has been replaced with a new standard of around 28 inches. Experts have also seen a boom in the demand for plus-size caskets. "Oversized caskets were relatively rare in the 1970s," says Mark Allen, executive director of the CFSA. Now, manufacturers regularly make 30-inch-wide caskets (the minimum width considered oversized), and a few companies offer caskets as wide as 52 inches.
Old size: 20 inches wide
Super size: 26 inches wide
As popcorn tubs and soda cups got supersized, so too did movie seat width. In the 1980s, movie seats were typically around 20 inches wide, according to AMC Theaters, which operates 300 theaters in 30 states. By the late 1990s, they averaged around 24 inches. Today, some chains are making seats as large as 26 inches wide, according to Michael Fant, vice president of construction for Landmark Theatres, which operates 55 theaters across the country.
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