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Release Date: 05/01/2001
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National Media Contact: Cathy Milbourn 202-564-7824;
Philadelphia Media Contact: David Sternberg 215-814-5548;

Promoting increased awareness about asthma, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman today kicked off Asthma Awareness Month in Philadelphia. During her visit, Whitman presented Thomas Jefferson University with a $110,000 grant to implement a comprehensive asthma care project in Philadelphia. The former New Jersey Governor also toured the AsthmaBUS, a double-decker British bus refurbished and remodeled as a traveling exhibit to help educate students about asthma.

“Reported cases of asthma have more than doubled in the past 20 years and today, nearly one in every 13 school children suffers from asthma,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. “Asthma causes ten million missed school days for American children each year and children who live in cities are especially susceptible.”

“At the Environmental Protection Agency, we want to help protect people with asthma from those environmental risks that can make their condition worse,” Whitman continued. “That=s why, for example, President Bush recently approved a rule to reduce pollution from diesel buses and trucks and to require cleaner diesel fuel. This action by the President will help prevent more than 360,000 asthma attacks and 386,000 cases of respiratory symptoms in children every year.”

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that asthma afflicts about 17 million Americans, including five million children. This disease is a leading cause of childhood hospitalizations and absences from school accounting for 100,000 child hospital visits each year, at a cost of nearly $2 billion, resulting in 10 million school days missed each year.

EPA is working with the Department of Health and Human Services and non-profit medical and asthma organizations to raise awareness about the indoor and outdoor pollutants that trigger asthma attacks. Since most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, controlling indoor pollutants can help prevent asthma attacks. In addition to taking medication prescribed by a doctor, parents can reduce children’s exposure to indoor environmental triggers such as secondhand smoke, dust mites, mold, cockroaches and other pests.

To reduce outdoor asthma triggers there is an emphasis on reducing emissions that increase ground-level ozone, or smog and particulate matter, or soot. Ground-level ozone can cause lung inflammation making asthmatics more sensitive to allergens thereby increasing the risk of attacks. Since ground-level ozone increases during the summer months, participating in outdoor activities when ozone levels are high can increase risk for respiratory problems. Taking some simple steps such as exercising early in the morning or limiting prolonged vigorous outdoor activities when ozone levels are high are some simple measures that can be taken.

The EPA is helping raise awareness of how people can fight childhood asthma through a recent partnership with the Advertising Council alerting parents to some of the indoor causes of asthma attacks such as mold and secondhand smoke from cigarettes. Over the next three years EPA will contribute to a media campaign of public service announcements in English and Spanish for television, radio, newspapers, buses and subways. The goal of this campaign is to increase awareness of asthma as a chronic disease and to educate the public about how attacks are triggered and how to prevent them.

For additional information on how to prevent asthma attacks call 1-866-NOATTACKS or visit or To find local ozone levels check the daily Air Quality Index in newspapers, on television or radio stations, or visit

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