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World Asthma Day Highlights Attacks on Clean-Air Standards

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Inner-city children living near sources of air pollution have higher rates of asthma. (John Alexandrowicz/EPA)
Inner-city children living near sources of air pollution have higher rates of asthma. (John Alexandrowicz/EPA)
 By Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA - Producer, Contact
May 2, 2017

PITTSBURGH – Tuesday is World Asthma Day and advocates are concerned that weakening clean-air rules and cutting EPA funding in Washington will make things worse. Pittsburgh ranks eighth on the American Lung Association's list of worst cities in the nation for air quality, and air pollution can trigger asthma.

For years, the air quality has been slowly improving but there's still a long way to go.

So Patrice Tomcik, field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, believes actions such as President Trump's executive order rescinding the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan is a big step backward.

"To roll back these protections and to cut budgets is really going to impact those who are most vulnerable, the elderly, anybody who has lung issues, along with children," she says.

Almost 13 percent of children in Allegheny County suffer from asthma, compared with 8.4 percent nationally.

Doctor Deborah Gentile is director of asthma research at the Pediatric Alliance in Pittsburgh. She has found pockets of asthma rates as high as 35 percent among inner-city school children living in areas close to sources of air pollution.

"For instance, here in Pittsburgh, two of the areas where we're finding higher rates of asthma are located right by a coke-work facility as well as an active steel mill," Gentile says.

Other sources of air pollution include power plants, vehicles and emissions from oil and gas facilities.

Nationally, about 77,000 children miss school each day because of complications related to asthma.

But, as Tomcik points out, parents can't control the quality of the air their children breathe. It's up to the government to establish rules and enforce them.

"We did not vote to make America dirty again," Tomcik adds. "Nobody wants polluted air. If you give any parent a choice they are, of course, going to want to have clean air for their children."

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