NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 8, 2005

Minorities suffer a disproportionately wider range of respiratory ailments, including childhood infections, asthma, cancer and occupational lung disease, according to a new study by the American Lung Association.


  • Blacks are three times more likely to die from asthma than whites and black children are three times more likely to develop sleep apnea than other children.
  • Hispanics are more than twice as likely as blacks or whites to live in areas with high particulate matter and work in high-risk industries.

Experts agree that minorities have greater health problems than whites, but they say the causes of such disparities are more difficult to identify.

Pollution was one of those factors examined by the researchers:

  • Eighty percent of Hispanics live in areas with poor air quality compared to 65 percent of blacks and 57 percent of whites.
  • The asthma rate per 1,000 was significantly higher for blacks with 95.7, followed by whites at 69.4 and 49 for Hispanics.
  • The asthma mortality rate per 100,000 people was lowest for whites at 1.2 and Hispanics at 1.4, whereas blacks had a rate of 3.6.

Poverty is probably the biggest factor contributing to the racial gaps, says James Donohue, chief of pulmonary medicine at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He believes that minorities are more likely to live in the inner city where they are exposed to crowding and substandard housing, both contributors to lung disease.

Source: Liz Szabo, "Gaps Found In Lung Care: Study cites widespread racial disparities," USA Today, February 1, 2005; based upon: report, "Lung Disease More Prevalent in Diverse Communities," American Lung Association, February 1, 2005.

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