Climate Change Contributes to Asthma in Poor Preschoolers

Poor and minority preschool children in U.S. inner cities are among the first people suffering adverse effects from global warming. According to a study released yesterday by Harvard researchers, climate change is among the primary causes of a growing epidemic of asthma in the Western world. Asthma among preschool children rose by 160 percent between 1980 and 1994, double the growth rate in the general population. Rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere trap heat and “promote pollen production in plants, increase fungal growth, and alter species composition in plant communities by favoring opportunistic weeds (like ragweed and poison ivy),” says the study. In addition to increased allergen exposure, inner-city children face the highest exposure to car, truck, and bus emissions that exacerbate asthma. More than a quarter of all children in Harlem have asthma.