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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Health Note: Violence and Asthma

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth's Maggie Villiger reports that neighborhood violence may be contributing to elevated levels of asthma.


TOOMEY: Coming up, Cambodian farmers go back to the land, in New England. First, this Environmental Health Note, with Maggie Villiger.

VILLIGER: Recent students have shown that there are more documented cases of asthma in low-income and minority neighborhoods than in other areas. Scientists say higher rates of air pollutants, tobacco exposure and home allergen exposure in these neighborhoods contribute to this difference but don't fully explain it. Now a new study shows that the higher rates of violence reported in low-income neighborhoods may be contributing to the heightened level of asthma. Stress has been known to bring on attacks of the disease, but this is the first study that explicitly documents the effects of violence on asthma sufferers. Researchers from two Boston hospitals examined the case studies of four girls from low-income neighborhoods who suffer from the condition. In all four cases the girls had severe asthma attacks after witnessing or experiencing acts of violence. These range from being threatened or actually assaulted, to witnessing domestic abuse, to hearing about the death of a peer. Researchers conclude that asthmatic children in violent neighborhoods will not recover through traditional medical treatment, unless it's accompanied by counseling and stress management. In addition, researchers caution that until the roots of violence in these neighborhoods are addressed, it will be difficult to effectively lower the nation's high rate of asthma. That's this week's Health Note. I'm Maggie Villiger.

TOOMEY: And you're listening to Living on Earth.



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