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Asthma Awareness Month Focuses on Afflictions of 20 Million Americans

Release Date: 05/12/2008
Contact Information: David Bryan, (913) 551-7433,

Environmental News


(Kansas City, Kan., May 12, 2008) - Asthma afflicts about 20 million Americans, including 6.3 million children. Since 1980, the biggest growth in asthma cases has been in children under five. In 2000, there were nearly two million emergency room visits and nearly half a million hospitalizations due to asthma, at a cost of almost $2 billion and causing 14 million school days missed each year.

Asthma is a serious, sometimes life-threatening respiratory disease that affects the quality of life for millions of Americans. In response to the growing asthma problem, EPA created a national, multifaceted asthma education and outreach program to share information about environmental factors – found indoors and outdoors – that trigger asthma. Although there is no cure for asthma yet, asthma can be controlled through medical treatment and management of environmental triggers.

Additionally, people with asthma are the only segment of the population that has been identified to be the most acutely responsive to ozone exposure. Ozone can irritate the already sensitive airway of someone with asthma. When ozone levels are high, more asthmatics have asthma attacks that require a doctor's attention or the use of additional medication. One reason this happens is that ozone makes people more sensitive to allergens, which are the most common triggers for asthma attacks. Also, asthmatics are more severely affected by the reduced lung function and irritation to the respiratory system caused by ozone.

EPA's goal is to reduce exposure to indoor asthma triggers and improve the quality of life for 6.5 million people by 2012. Some of the most common indoor asthma triggers include secondhand smoke, dust mites, mold, cockroaches and other pests, household pets, and combustion byproducts.

Secondhand smoke - Secondhand smoke is a mixture of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke exhaled by the smoker that is often found in homes and cars where smoking is allowed.

Dust mites - Dust mites are too small to be seen, but can be found in almost every home in mattresses and bedding materials, carpets, upholstered furniture, stuffed toys and curtains.

Mold - Mold can grow indoors when mold spores land on wet or damp surfaces. In the home, mold is most commonly found in the bathroom, kitchen and basement.

Cockroaches and other pests - Cockroach body parts, secretions and droppings, and the urine, droppings and saliva of pests, such as rodents, are often found in areas where food and water are present.

Warm-blooded pets (such as cats and dogs) - Pets' skin flakes, urine and saliva can be found in homes where pets are allowed inside.

Nitrogen dioxide - Nitrogen dioxide is an odorless gas that can be a byproduct of indoor fuel-burning appliances, such as gas stoves, gas or oil furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves and unvented kerosene or gas space heaters.

Agencies, organizations and individuals are encouraged to work with the American Lung Association and other asthma-related agencies to improve their own knowledge of asthma triggers and how they can be reduced or eliminated.

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