The National Geographic Society – If She Could Speak With The Pope

pope trafficHermelinda Basurto talks with a community health worker about the roaches and bedbugs in the apartment where she and José Espinoza are raising their five children.

She says, she would tell him about the unhealthful living conditions in East Harlem, if she could speak with the pope. In East Harlem every year, 73 of every 1000 kids under 15 age are treated by emergency room doctors for asthma attacks, compared with 27 of every 1000 citywide. They wind up hospitalized for asthma at more than twice the city rate.

< >Soot and Exhaust in East Harlem.

Smith, a single mother and temporary cosmetologist and student, struggles to support her three young kids two of whom suffer from asthma in Manhattan's poorest neighborhood. Every year in New York City alone, nearly 40000 children suffer asthma attacks so serious they are treated in emergency rooms. Gonzalez thumbs through a notebook full of unresolved maintenance requests for her home. It takes months for the New York City Housing Authority to respond to such requests. Now look. Often maintenance workers don't come when they say they're going to come, even after she's taken the day off work. When they do finally show up, they offer little help, she says.

pope trafficEarlier this year Perera's research team found that being poor increases air effects pollution on children's developing brains.

Mothers in northern Manhattan and the Bronx who had been exposed to toxic pollutants in car exhaust and also struggled through pregnancy to pay for food, clothing, and shelter had children with lower IQs at age seven than kids whose moms didn't face financial hardship. All the mothers studied were AfricanAmerican or immigrants from the Dominican Republic. And now here's a question. Why are 'low income' kids more susceptible? They don't get the medications they need to prevent asthma attacks, reason Part may be poor preventive health care. Normally, blacks nationwide have much higher overall rates of asthma. The stress of poverty could be a big factor too. This is the case. The crushing insecurity that comes from struggling to pay rent or feed a family may help explain a lot of health disparities between New York's poorest and richest residents, Perera says.

The avenues that flank public block housing where she lives carry a constant procession of 'exhaustbelching' taxis, buses, cars, ambulances, and sanitation trucks. Inside the apartment, paint peels off the buckling drywall. Essentially, leaky pipes feed the panels with constant moisture. Actually, espinoza says in Spanish that it's becoming too expensive for him to feed his five kids. He explains that the landlord refuses to fix the stove. Basically, they've been eating lots of junk food, They've been without gas for nearly five months, and it's difficult for them to cook nutritious meals on an electric hot plate.

The pontiff has called environmental justice for the poor an ethical imperative.

All gravest effects attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest, he wrote in an encyclical he unveiled in June. Air pollution, he wrote, produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths. TaiSheba Smith points to a vent in the East bathroom Harlem public housing apartment she shares with her three children, including her 11yearold asthmatic son. Now please pay attention. Blackish soot covered the bathroom, after men in hazmat suits came to clear out the vents.

Cockroaches scurry across the walls and floor. They come back through the electric outlets and from under the sink, where leaking pipes create a grey sludge, She's tried to eliminate them. Her floor is wet, her walls damp and moldy. That's right! Garbage bags stacked in the living room keep the family's possessions dry. In East Harlem the poor are relegated to apartments with leaky pipes, moldy walls, and roach infestations. Roughly 44 households percent live on less than