10454 & 10451
Mott Haven and Melrose, Bronx
It is no accident that residents of segregated communities of color in the US are more likely to live in some of the most polluted environments.
A 2014 study found that whites and non-whites are literally breathing different quality air, with people of color exposed to 38% higher levels of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant associated with asthma. This is a direct legacy of redlining.
Asthma is a lung disease that makes breathing difficult and causes coughing and chest pain. It affects 7.8% of Americans with low-income Black and Hispanic communities bearing the greatest burden. Blacks are 3 times more likely to be hospitalized or die from asthma than Whites. The CDC reports that the national asthma rate among White children is 7.4%, while among Black children it is 13.4%. Among Hispanics, Puerto Rican children have the highest rates of asthma, at 13.9%.
According to WE ACT for Environmental Justice, asthma and other health disparities constitute not just a public health issue, but are clear examples of the effects of environmental racism. Environmental racism refers to the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards, including toxic waste facilities, landfills and polluting factories, on low-income and people of color.
In NYC, residents of historically redlined neighborhoods are much more likely to go to the emergency room for asthma than residents of “low-risk” areas. Nationally, 1 in 11 children suffers from asthma. But in parts of the formerly redlined sections of the South Bronx, Harlem, and a section of Brooklyn known as “asthma alley,” the rate is closer to 1 in 4.
In Mott Haven and Melrose, in the South Bronx, the rate for child asthma emergency department visits is 647 out of every 10,000 children aged 5 to 14. By comparison, the rate in the Financial District is 28 out of 10,000. In Mott Haven and Melrose, 73% of the population is Latino and 24% is black. 29% of residents live below the poverty line.
Four expressways run through or near the South Bronx, and the area contains waste transfer stations that handle close to 30% of NYC’s trash. In these neighborhoods, it is clear that asthma, segregation, urban renewal, and environmental racism go hand in hand.