Low-income and minority populations in the United States often live and work in areas where they are unduly exposed to pollution that can damage their health. In fact, two-thirds of Latino families live in areas that do not meet the federal government’s air quality standards. It is precisely this “bad air” that can cause chronic illnesses, such as asthma, and even death.
May is Asthma Awareness Month. While more and more children are diagnosed with this disease every year in the U.S., Latino children suffer disproportionately from the disease and are less likely to have a management plan or medication to control their symptoms. Asthma in farmworker children has been linked to the “bad air,” which is prevalent in most farming communities where not only pesticides, but also other air pollutants such as dust mites, molds, cockroaches, pet dander, and secondhand smoke cause and agitate asthma. Not only are farmworker housing projects often near fields and within reach of pesticide drift, but sometimes living conditions inside the homes can also contribute to severe health problems due to overcrowding, pest infestation, spotty and cheap workmanship, and mold.
According to the EPA almost 25 million people, including almost 7 million children, have asthma in the United States. Nearly1 in 10 Latino children have asthma, and they are twice as likely to be hospitalized for asthma related problems. Additionally, they are three times more likely to die from complications compared to non-Hispanic white children. According to a recently published report by the Center for American Progress Latino children, especially farmworkers, are the most underinsured group in the country. The lack of insurance, regular doctor’s visits or a solid management plan can lead to far worse health outcomes in Latino children in general, and according to the report it has significant consequences for those children who suffer from asthma.
This May, AFOP’s Health & Safety Programs will be sharing information with others about the millions of children suffering with asthma and the thousands of farmworker children without medical support. Watch for the September edition of ¡Salud! on asthma and check out the EPA Asthma Awareness Month Website for additional information, tips, and ideas on what you can do to help.