Household exposure factors, asthma, and school absenteeism in a predominantly Hispanic community

J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2003 May;13(3):169-76. doi: 10.1038/sj.jea.7500266.


The Passaic Asthma Reduction Effort (PARE) used an asthma symptom and household exposure factor questionnaire to screen 4634 elementary school children over a 4-year period in Passaic, New Jersey. During the first year, an additional 240 preschool children were also screened. Overall, 16% of the school children were reported by their parents to have been diagnosed with asthma. In all, 30% of responding families claimed to have at least one family member diagnosed with asthma and this was five times more likely if the target child had asthma. Exposures consistently associated with childhood asthma diagnosis included environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), presence of dampness/mold, roaches, and furry pets in the home. Diagnosis of asthma was primarily associated with all six symptoms used in the PARE questionnaire, and secondarily with environmental factors. Puerto Rican and black children had the highest asthma prevalence (26% and 33%), while Mexican children had the lowest (7%). Use of medications and school absenteeism among asthmatic children were associated with wheeze and night cough, but not with any specific environmental exposure. Increased school absenteeism by children undiagnosed with asthma was associated with ETS and dampness/mold in the home. Differences in asthma diagnosis and absenteeism in response to environmental factors were found across ethnic subgroups. Getting asthmatic children on medical management protocols and providing families with education about environmental risk reduction should aid in reducing morbidity in this ethnically complex population. Such coordinated efforts offer the promise of reducing school absenteeism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Age Distribution
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / ethnology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cockroaches
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Fungi
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data*
  • Housing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • New Jersey / epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Racial Groups
  • Risk Factors
  • Schools / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents