[Excerpt from feature article by Kat Stafford, in Associated Press and major newspapers, as part of "From Birth to Death" series, May 23, 2023]
"Black children are more likely to have asthma than kids of any other race in America. They're more likely to live near polluting plants, and in rental housing with mold and other triggers, because of racist housing laws in the nation's past. Their asthma often is more severe and less likely to be controlled, because of poor medical care and mistrust of doctors.
About 4 million kids in the U.S. have asthma. The percentage of Black children with asthma is far higher than white kids; more than 12% of Black kids nationwide suffer from the disease, compared with 5.5% of white children. They also die at a much higher rate.
Across America, nearly 4 in 10 Black children live in areas with poor environmental and health conditions compared to 1 in 10 white children. Factories spew nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. Idling trucks and freeway traffic kick up noxious fumes and dust.
The disparities are built into a housing system shaped by the longstanding effects of slavery and Jim Crow-era laws. Many of the communities that have substandard housing today or are located near toxic sites are the same as those that were segregated and redlined decades ago.
In Connecticut, more than half of Black households rent, compared with a quarter of white households. In Hartford, almost 7 in 10 Black households rent.
An Asthma Allergy Foundation of America report examining asthma disparities found that Black renters were more likely to report the presence of mice, cockroaches or mold in their homes. Black people also live in older housing at higher rates, exposing them to triggers like dust and mold. In Hartford, 63% of Black households live in structures built before 1960, according to DataHaven, a nonprofit community organization.
Black people suffer the brunt of it. Exposure to pollutants — specifically, fine particulate matter — is often disproportionately experienced by Black and Hispanic populations, while the emissions are disproportionately caused by white populations.
Between 2018 and 2021, more than 21% of children in East Hartford had asthma — compared to 13% statewide, according to DataHaven.
Kamora Herrington has lived in Hartford for much of her life. She launched a gathering space, Kamora’s Cultural Corner, for residents in a north-end neighborhood in Hartford — a mostly Black area of the city facing many socioeconomic challenges and the rippling effects of racism that have led to high poverty rates, poor health outcomes and shortened life expectancies.