Black, Latino youth breathe toxic air, disproportionately die from asthma
African-American and Latino youth disproportionately suffer from asthma. Some one in four Latino youth living in poverty in the United States suffer from asthma compared with one in 13 white children living in more affluent families. (See the recent CDC report on health disparities.)
Working-class African-American and Latino families live in areas with markedly poor air quality. Power plants, industrial boilers, bus terminals, and highly trafficked roads and highways are commonplace in these communities. As a result, African-American and Latino youth breathe toxic air.
Added to the air pollution that plagues these poor, working-class communities is the fact that children in these neighborhoods are exposed to other environmental toxins and allergens at a higher rate than children in affluent neighborhoods. Toxic waste sites and contaminated water, for example, are more often near African-American, Latino, and other working-class neighborhoods. Dust, mold, cockroach droppings, and other indoor pollutants associated with increased asthma rates are more prevalent in the poor housing stock in these communities.
Asthma is a disease from which no one should die. To decrease its incidence among poor and working people, how about a massive public works program to clean up the environment of African-American, Latino, and other working-class communities? Such a green campaign would provide much-needed employment and result in improved health. Increasing access to primary-care clinicians would decrease the mortality from this disease.