An environmental health survey of residents in Boston Chinatown

J Immigr Health. 2000 Apr;2(2):97-111. doi: 10.1023/A:1009538002661.


The Asian/Pacific Islander (API) population in the United States is majority immigrant, diverse ethnically, and resides predominately in urban settings. It is possible that urban APIs face health-threatening environmental hazards that differ in form or magnitude from environmental concerns of other definable subpopulations or the overall population in the United States. To date, little or nothing is known about this topic. Spurred by the complaints of one such community, in Boston Chinatown, which is also of low socioeconomic status, we conducted a first-stage survey of randomly chosen residents about environmental health concerns. Despite a small sample size, we were able to document several environmental factors of potential concern that were worthy of further study. These included exhaust and noise from motor vehicle traffic and dust from construction projects, and factors originating inside the home. Pedestrian safety and lack of open/green space emerged as primary community concerns, while residents' knowledge of environmental hazards, such as lead paint, was found to be weak. We conclude that standard surveys of "environmental justice" in communities such as this one require tailoring of methods to specific conditions in order to be effective. For example, our survey preferentially missed working-age men, and about half of all randomly selected persons were not interviewed despite bilingual/bicultural interviewers, support letters from the local health clinic, and in-person attempts at residences.