Residential Environments are as much to Blame for Asthmas as Indoor Conditions


A lot of misconceptions fly around about the potential risks of contracting asthmas, but recent studies find that most of these long-held misconceptions are misleading, with research statistics to prove this.

For instance, researchers used to think in the early 60s that kids living in poor urban neighborhoods faced higher risks of developing asthma, but recent studies find that this is not necessarily true.

“Researchers started noting that people living in inner cities like New York, Chicago and Baltimore, had rates of asthma in general and they seemed to have very high rates of hospitalization and emergency room visits,” says Dr. Corrine Keet, a pediatric allergist at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

asthmas in children
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“We found that living in an inner-city area was actually not a big risk factor for having asthma,” she says. “But we also found that even more children had asthma in some poor suburban and medium sized towns in other regions of the country.”

In trying to isolate the actual risks, researchers found that poverty among African-Americans and Puerto Ricans living in inner cities is also an overwhelming factor in developing asthma; even though genetic factors among these classes of people tend to play a role in having asthma.

“Where we used to conflate inner city with poverty, now we’re see even more concentrated poverty in suburban areas and smaller towns,” Keet says.

And since this means that environmental conditions outside the home is as important as indoor conditions of bad housing, infested with cockroaches and mold, among other living conditions can add to the risks of asthma.

“This can also be true in non-urban areas, of course,” said Dr. Rosalind Wright, a professor of pediatrics at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. “If you live in lower quality housing, you may have similar types of risks.”

Children also face the risk of asthma with second-hand smoke – and poor people tend to smoke more. “Certainly people who live with lower incomes have many more challenges to deal with and psychological stress, and this can affect your immune system,” Wright said.

“The problem is it’s not the same environmental factors that might be most relevant or important, if you’re talking about the Upper East Side of New York City versus East Harlem versus rural Michigan or something like this,” Wright added.

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