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Take a Deep Breath: Health of NC Children Impacted by Ozone

PHOTO: Luna Willhelm,5, has asthma. Her parents believe it was caused by poor air quality in the environment and the family believes someone should be held responsible. Photo courtesy: Rebecca Cheatham
PHOTO: Luna Willhelm,5, has asthma. Her parents believe it was caused by poor air quality in the environment and the family believes someone should be held responsible. Photo courtesy: Rebecca Cheatham
August 14, 2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - This year, thousands of children from North Carolina will go to school with an inhaler to treat asthma. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 7-million children nationwide have asthma, which is just over nine-percent of the population.

In some cases, environment is believed to play a role in the medical condition. It's why groups including the Medical Advocates for Healthy Air have spoken in support of the EPA's efforts to strengthen carbon pollution limits this year.

Rebecca Cheatham moved her family to Charlotte from New York for better quality of life and air, but feels it was too late for her daughter, who now has to carry an inhaler.

"The environment was totally responsible for her developing asthma," Cheatham says. "We have no family history, we don't smoke. There's no known triggers, except when we lived in New York, she was exposed to heavy amounts of particulate matter."

In July the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the EPA for failing to ensure that North Carolinians are protected from lead and ozone air pollution. According to the American Lung Association, in North Carolina, more than 860-thousand people have illnesses such as asthma and pulmonary disease that may be the result of ozone pollution.

Cheatham says as a precautionary measure, they monitor air-quality levels when deciding when to let their daughter play outside or participate in things such as gym class, but believe it shouldn't have to be this way.

"There's no reason for us to have polluted air," she said. "There are many other ways in which we can do the things we need to do as a society that don't pollute the air."

According to medical experts, children are at greater risk for asthma because of immature lungs and immune systems; they also breathe more rapidly than adults. The EPA will finalize carbon-emission rules next June.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC