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Incidence of asthma is choking the Valley's kids

Incidence of asthma is choking the Valley's kids

Picture of Daniel Casarez

On a clear night in the southern Valley communities of Tulare, Huron and Tranquillity, you can see a full moon over the thousands of miles of agriculture. On warm, summer evenings, these harvest moons are brilliant to see.

However, disturbing to this brilliant landscape is the stench of spray drift from pesticides and the choking thickness of the particulate matter - the smog considered one of the worst in the nation - that engulfs the Valley.

Despite what the San Joaquin Valley Air District says, many doctors believe these pollutants are the triggers for asthma attacks.

The targets of asthma: Low-income Latino families lead the state for prevalence of asthma. First on the list are young Latinos, while African Americans are a close second.

Many of these Latino families work in small rural communities - like Huron, Tulare and Tranquillity - throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Huron is a small, dusty rural community about 40 minutes southwest of Fresno. Just south of Huron, less than 10 miles, is Interstate 5. On many mornings this summer, busses loaded with day laborers were transported to work in the nearby fields where they harvested crops like grapes, lettuce, strawberries, oranges, and other citrus, all a part of the multi-billion dollar agri-business system.

The children of these laborers, who are likely immigrants, do not have access to adequate health care. They rely on the advice of pharmacists for medical care, opposed to kids living in the area of Fresno and the larger cities, who are lucky because they tend to have more access to regular-scheduled health care.

All these factors has caused asthma to reach epidemic proportions. Organizations like Regional Asthma Management and Prevention Initiative (RAMP) www.rampasthma.org/ and Coalition for Clean Air chapters throughout the state has stepped up the effort to provide education on the crisis.

Throughout this Fellowship, I'll explore the factors that make up this devestating health condition. I'll gather expert testimony from doctors, see what school districts doing to combat the disease? Are the schools helping to educate parents? I'll create a network of information to be shared in a daily blog. And I'll ask the policy makers to weigh in about the poor air quality in the Central Valley, the triggers.

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