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Call for Action on World Asthma Day

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Almost 20 percent of Philadelphia school children have asthma. (iStock)
Almost 20 percent of Philadelphia school children have asthma. (iStock)
 By Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA - Producer, Contact
May 2, 2016

PHILADELPHIA – Tuesday is World Asthma Day and in Philadelphia, the event will be marked with a march and rally for cleaner air.

The noon rally at City Hall will be led by the groups Moms Clean Air Force and PennEnvironment.

The City of Brotherly Love received an F grade in the American Lung Association's recent State of the Air Report.

According to Tom Schuster, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, Philadelphia has above average rates of hospitalizations and deaths due to asthma, and almost one in five children is an asthma sufferer.

"And so, the rally is going to be calling attention to the need to transition to cleaner sources of energy, because a lot of the air pollution that aggravates asthma is caused by the burning of fossil fuels," he states.

Schuster adds from City Hall, Sierra Club supporters will lead a march to the local office of the Environmental Protection Agency to urge the agency to close a loophole exempting the Brunner Island coal-fired power plant from requirements to cut pollution.

Brunner Island is the only large power plant left in Pennsylvania that has no controls on nitrogen dioxide emissions.

Schuster points out that the state recently finalized rules significantly reducing the amount of smog-causing pollution most power plants can emit.

"But the Brunner Island power plant doesn't have that equipment, and it won't be required to install the equipment, or take other measures to reduce its pollution," he points out.

Schuster says the federal EPA can reject that loophole in the state's rules.

And Philadelphia isn't the only problem area in the state for asthma. Pittsburgh and Harrisburg both made the top ten list for areas nationally with the most fine particulate matter pollution, which Schuster says can trigger asthma and other health conditions.

"Fine particulates can also cause things like lung cancer, because the particles can get lodged deep in the lungs and they're difficult for the body to expel," he states.

Gov. Tom Wolf is continuing work on a Clean Power Plan that could lead to significant reductions in pollution by the year 2030.

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