Columbia University Research Identifies an Environmental Culprit for High Rates of Asthma Among Black Inner-City Children

Asthma is significantly more prevalent among black children than it is among white children. And for those with asthma, blacks often have far more severe cases than whites. Government figures show that black children with asthma are three times as likely as whites to be hospitalized and nearly three times as likely as whites to die from the disease.

Now, researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University have found what appears to be a contributing factor to the racial disparity in asthma rates. The study found that children who are exposed to mice and cockroaches and develop antibodies to the proteins of these household pests are more likely to have asthma and other respiratory problems.

“Our findings have significant public health implications,” said Rachel L. Miller, Irving Associate Professor of Medicine and Environmental Health at Columbia. “They highlight the importance of reducing exposure to cockroach and mouse allergens at a very early age.” The research may explain why there is a high level of asthma among black children in New York and other major cities.