Asthma Mystery of Puerto RicoBy Jason Earle Google+
Source: Habitat Quarterly, Winter 2011
Puerto Rico has one of the highest asthma prevalence rates in the world. Children in the U.S. Caribbean territory are nearly three times as likely to have the respiratory ailment as white non-Hispanic children in the continental United States, the Associated Press reports.
Asthma cases increased sharply this year, which might be linked to heavy rains that have unleashed a bumper crop of mold spores. Puerto Rico has 2.5 times the death rate from asthma as the mainland, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Puerto Ricans on the mainland still have an asthma rate 2.5 times that of whites in the U.S.
Deepening the mystery, Puerto Ricans with European ancestry seem most at risk of asthma. No one knows for certain why Puerto Ricans suffer so much from asthma, despite decades of research. Theories include volcanic ash from nearby Montserrat, Sahara Desert dust that blows across the Atlantic in the summer and molds that thrive in the semi-tropical humidity - particularly bad this year, the wettest on record.
Other theories point at poverty and the fact that tens of thousands of people live in dingy public housing projects rife with mice and cockroaches - known asthma triggers. Nearly 30 percent of children in Puerto Rico are diagnosed with asthma, and the rate increases to 40 percent among kids in public housing projects.
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