Asthma Epidemic Among Young Blacks in Ingham County
Suppressed Report Shows Disturbing Trends
Lansing, MI — Air pollution is causing a number of health-related problems among Ingham County residents according to a suppressed county health department report released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) today.
The rate of preventable asthma-related hospitalizations for young black males, aged 1-14, is 64.8 per 10,000 – nearly 3 times higher than the asthma-related hospitalizations of young black females and 2.65 times higher than white males in the county.
The 50-page suppressed report traces significant variations in asthma hospitalization rates depending on where residents live and their ages and sex. Asthma attacks are associated with risk factors such as air-borne allergens and pollutants. To assess environmental risk factors, the Ingham County Health Department identified 22 air pollutant issues that should be assessed, focusing on chemical (including carbon monoxide emissions), biological, and physical contributors to air-related illnesses.
In 1999, Ingham County embarked upon a “data democratization” effort to inform citizens about environmental health issues but the resulting reports were never released to the public. The suppressed air report, for the first time, assembled local data on air-related environmental conditions such as asthma, allergies and sick building syndrome. Other findings detailed in the report show:
- A cancer risk of more than 100 times the goal set by the Clean Air Act, indicating that about 26 county residents developed cancer from air pollution in 1998;
- Disturbing roadblocks to obtaining complete emergency room asthma data even by the state;
- Alarmingly high numbers of carbon monoxide leaks among county households, about 1 in 250 households had carbon monoxide leaks in 1998;
- Inadequate ventilation is causing many cases of Sick Building Syndrome.
“This report underlines how little is known about the causes of hundreds of asthma hospitalizations and other air-related illnesses,” said Eric Wingerter, national field director for PEER, which has previously released censored county reports on water quality and food safety. “This report attempts to connect the dots between otherwise disconnected databases.”
“Unfortunately, Ingham County Health Department Officials seem to be operating under the assumption that ‘what you don’t know can’t hurt you’ rather than upholding county residents’ right-to-know.” said Gregory Button, Policy Analyst for the Ecology Center.