Daily News Archives

The 100 Worst Cities For Asthma Victims – Tennessee No. 1
(Beyond Pesticides, March 18, 2003) The Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America released two days ago the findings from an extensive survey that listed one hundred of the worst cities for those who suffer from asthma to live. In first place was Knoxville, TN - a city that uses mosquito sprays containing synthetic pyrethroids, which are believed to exacerbate asthma. Nashville and Memphis were ranked among the top ten.

More than 20 million people in the United States suffer from asthma and nearly 5,000 die from the disease annually, according to a CNN article on the survey. Asthma also disproportionately burdens low-income, minority communities in urban areas. Exacerbating the problem is the findings from a 2003 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, that the financial cost of mild, moderate, and severe asthma is astronomical, costing severe sufferers as much as $12,813 a year. (See Daily News story.)

1. Knoxville, Tennessee
2. Little Rock, Arkansas
3. St. Louis, Missouri
4. Madison, Wisconsin
5. Louisville, Kentucky
6. Memphis, Tennessee
7. Toledo, Ohio
8. Kansas City, Missouri
9. Nashville, Tennessee
10. Hartford, Connecticut

Rather than simply compare asthma rates to the national average which is the typical method of analysis, the just-released survey ranked 100 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas according to 15 differing criteria taken from the most recent government and industry data within a 12-month period. According to the report, the criteria included three categories of factors:

* Prevalence Factors, such as asthma morbidity and mortality;
* Risk Factors, such as air quality, poverty rate, smoking laws and inhaler access laws; and,
* Medical Factors: such as number of prescriptions and asthma specialists per capita.

Synethic pyrethroid insecticides can be a key contributor to asthma attacks. Yet, they are widely used by municipalities for adult mosquito control – a controversial practice of spraying pesticides in the streets of neighborhoods and elsewhere. According to Dr. Dennis Goode of the University of Maryland, exposure to the pyrethroid insecticides, permethrin and sumithrin, can initiate headaches, asthmatic attacks, tremors, and convulsions and can lead to even more serious syndromes with extended exposure.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticides, especially those with a history of allergies or asthma. The Los Angeles Times reported on December 12, 2003 that a study group of children exposed to household pesticides in their first year of life develop asthma twice as often as those never exposed. (See Daily News story.)

“In August 2003, after a single human case of West Nile Virus developed in the half-million person population in the County, the Health Department began truck-based spraying of the synthetic pyrethroid Anvil® 2+2 throughout all 525 square-miles of the county,” says Joe Shedlock, a Nashville resident and volunteer with the local environmental organization, BURNT. Anvil® contains the synethic pyrethroid sumithrin.

Like Nashville, St. Louis, Missouri, the third ranking worst asthma “capital” city also uses Anvil® 2+2 for mosquito control. “It is hard to believe that Health Departments are serious about protecting public health when their major expense is pesticides,” says Don Fitz, the Gateway Green Alliance Spokesperson on Toxins in St. Louis.

Washington, D.C., a city with asthma rates at twice the national average, according to the D.C. Department of Health, cited health concerns over spraying pesticides for mosquito control. In its West Nile Virus Response Plan the District states without reservation that, “Aerosolized pesticides can trigger asthma and aggravate respiratory conditions.” The real U.S. capital city ranked number 50 on the asthma survey list, but included an area broader than just the DC metro district.

Despite these risks, many cities including those in the survey’s top 10, top 50 and top 100 worst cities for asthmatics continue to spray pesticides adding to the resident’s health problems.

TAKE ACTION: If you are concerned with the rising rates of asthma, or are an asthmatic yourself, contact your local chapter or support group of The Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America for ways to reduce your symptoms and learn more about the disease. Go to http://aafa.org or call their toll-free hotline at: 1-800-7-ASTHMA. To stop the spraying or use of pesticides in your community go to our West Nile virus/Mosquito Management program page, or contact Beyond Pesticides directly at 202-543-5450.