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Know Your Rights
Subject: Health Justice & Access
Type: Media Coverage

Protestors Voice Anger Over NYC Mold, Rodents

In New York City, there are more than 300,000 reported asthmatic children, and there are certain everyday factors that are triggering flare-ups. Protestors hit the streets Tuesday, demanding the city help families rid their apartments of these triggers.

"This is actually where I sleep, but I have to stop sleeping here, because every time I go to sleep, I feel like I’m suffocating and I just can’t breathe," Adriana Espinal told CBS 2.

Espinal, 14, blamed a water leak in her ceiling for the mold that has grown in the insulation. Mold triggers Adriana’s asthma, and as a result, she’s already missed 8 days of school this year. She fears it’s only going to get worse.

"I don’t want to end up in the hospital, and I don’t want my mom to end up in the hospital either, and my sister just developed asthma, that’s serious," said the 14-year-old.

Adriana is not the only one being affected by mold. Protestors wore masks, saying "We can’t breathe," as part of a protest in front of the Department of Health, by the advocacy group "Make the Road New York," out of Bushwick, Brooklyn. 

Exposure to dust, mold, mildew, rodent infestation, bedbugs, cockroaches, and pesticides is exacerbated by poor housing conditions rampant in New York City.

The group wants the DOH to amend the health code, to specify asthma triggers such as rodents, roaches and mold as health hazards.

As of now, it’s not considered a health code violation unless there’s 25 square feet of mold, but protestors want to knock that requirement down to 5-10 square feet of mold.

"Mice, roaches and rats are the other main triggers of asthma, and those aren’t getting fixed either," said Jesse Goldman of "Make the Road New York."

Instead of monthly extermination, they want holes and leaks fixed. Extermination serves as a controlling method only, instead of getting at the root of the issue.

The Health Department has answered by saying it has met with the group and is fully aware of its concerns. However, there is not sufficient scientific consensus to justify the specific policies the group is demanding.

This response is upsetting to protestors and members of "Make the Road New York."

"Asthma is the number 1 cause of missed school days in New York City, yet this is not a priority for the health department," said Irene Tung, who’s pushing for greater action by the Health Department.

Tung also said of the Health Department that they have it within their jurisdiction to rid apartments of mold as a health concern, yet they choose not to.

"The Health Department was able to rid New York City of transfat, so why not mold in apartments?"