Researchers at Old Dominion University have for years tried to understand the ways repeated flooding affects residents of Hampton Roads, Virginia.
They have explained how rising floods affect quality of life, traffic, landslides and more.
Now, a couple of ODU researchers have set out to focus on Portsmouth. And after interviewing homes across the city, they say one of the most troubling patterns that emerges is the likely connection between chronic flooding and childhood asthma.
“We were surprised by the prevalence of asthma in Portsmouth, in certain populations, in certain geographies,” said Joshua Behr, associate research professor at the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center at the ODU.
The trend is particularly bad among tenants and low-income neighborhoods.
Virginia asthma rates are already above the national average, but are even higher on Hampton Roads, and higher in Portsmouth, Behr said.
“Then you get to private neighborhoods (Portsmouth) and look at pediatric asthma and it’s off the charts, five or six times what it should be.”
The findings are part of a larger project by Behr and Rafael Diaz, also an associate research professor at the simulation center. Some are commissioned by government agencies, including the City of Portsmouth and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
For asthma data, Behr said he and Diaz interviewed about 5% of all Portsmouth households.
About a quarter of them said at least one person in the household had asthma. Of these, more than a third were children.
Nearly a third of households with asthma also reported not being able to enter or leave their neighborhoods due to flooding over the past year.
In a preliminary presentation of the data, Behr and Diaz decompose many other factors.
Households who reported damage to their property due to flooding, for example, were more likely to report asthma.
All of this simply shows a correlation, but not a direct causality, Behr acknowledged.
The connection of points between asthma levels and recurrent flooding is an ongoing process.
Established research already shows that flooding leads to mold and mildew in the home, and that mold and mildew are triggers of asthma, Behr said.
Mold and mildew were present in the homes of approximately one-third of Portsmouth households with asthma.
What the ODU team hopes to do is build a compelling argument that increased flooding can worsen asthma in a region prone to these rising waters.
Mold and mildew is one of the reasons. The worsening of seasonal allergies and climate-related climate change could be different. Behr said he hopes to investigate more exactly how recurrent flood-related triggers could be behind bad asthma.
Lax code enforcement and absent owners appear to aggravate the problem on Hampton Roads, he added.
Areas most prone to flooding become cheaper to live in and therefore attract those on low incomes. They could then lose property due to the floods, even if they are less equipped to pay for them, making it a “vicious cycle,” Behr said.
Asthma is not just a drawback. Portsmouth polls show that in households with asthma, nearly half visited the country Emergency room for this at least once during the past year, with 14% going to the emergency room at least twice.
There are also important economic implications, Diaz said. In a home with a single parent, for example, floods and asthma-Emergency-induced visits can mean being late for work and school.
In an employer-occupied federal region, such as Hampton Roads, this could be a potential wear and tear for the workforce and also for national security, Diaz said. Not to mention the costs of the health care system.
“We put a lot of energy and focused, and rightly so, on hurricanes and tidal waves and the next big storm,” Behr said. “But recurrent floods occur periodically. And the cumulative cost of that, for certain neighborhoods and homes over time, is equal to or greater than what the loss of a major hurricane would entail.”
2021 The Virginian-Pilot. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Citation: There is a link between pediatric asthma and flooded neighborhoods, especially low-income ones, researchers say (2021, July 8), recovered on July 8, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/ news / 2021-07-link-pediatric-asthma -bondis-inundacionsespecialment.html
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