Asthma's link to air pollution

Instead of mouse droppings, researchers should look at pollution to explain increased asthma in poor neighborh

I want to thank reporter Meredith Cohn ("Poverty, race drive asthma rates more than city living," Feb 5) for informing The Sun's readers about the new Johns Hopkins research that found that asthma is not just an inner city problem and that high levels of the disease were most related to income, ethnicity and race.

Ms. Cohn explains that other "key risk factors for asthma include roach and other pest allergens, indoor smoke, air pollution and premature births" which she notes are "not exclusive to cities." However, the reporter goes on to talk mostly of mouse droppings, implying that that is the link to the high levels found in poor homes whether they be urban or rural. While she might be right, this is pure speculation and may be an example of our tendency to blame the victim.

Another equally plausible explanation for the link between poverty and asthma is air pollution. We know that ozone pollution is associated with new onset asthma, and ozone pollution is often an environmental justice issue. Sources include auto and truck exhaust and coal-fired power plant and incinerator emissions. I hope someone at Hopkins is or will look at that connection.

When we understand that link better, we can then set policy that limits the amount of dirty industry and truck and auto traffic that can be located in any one neighborhood. Perhaps there should be a ZIP code check of toxic emissions before locating another dirty industry or incinerator in lower income neighborhoods already exposed to more than their fair share.

Dr. Gwen DuBois, Baltimore

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