Fri Jan 3, 2014 4:20 AM EST
Amelia Krales / NBC News See segments of NBC study.
Amanda, 6, poses in her Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment. Amanda’s mother, Rossana de la Cuadra, has had mold in the bathroom of the apartment on and off for most of the 14 years that she’s lived there. She believes the mold may be a contributing factor Amanda’s asthma. Rossana de la Cuadra and Jose Santos are fighting their landlord to provide an asthma-safe environment for their sick daughter.
By Linda Carroll, NBC News contributor
Javier Sepulveda watches the cockroaches skitter across the floor of his Harlem apartment with a mixture of anger and angst. For him they are more than just a nauseating nuisance: They’re one of the main reasons his 12-year-old daughter, Melissa, sometimes struggles to breathe with the scary sensation that she’s suffocating.
Like many others living in low-income neighborhoods, Sepulveda has discovered that his home is implicated in his daughter’s asthma—and that there’s little he can do about it, a Dateline investigation, part of the year-long NBC News “In Plain Sight” poverty reporting initiative, found.
Not long ago scientists noticed a link between poverty and asthma. Now they’re starting to discover that where you live plays a big role in explaining the connection. From dilapidated and deteriorating housing to smog-choked outside air, impoverished inner-city neighborhoods are a breathing hazard for both young and old.
Studies have shown that roaches and mice produce powerful allergens that can kick off allergies and asthma. And while those pests can crop up in more affluent urban neighborhoods, they are a virtual epidemic in communities inhabited by the poor.