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EPA Applauds Asthma Free School Zone for Protecting Children's Health

Release Date: 05/25/2005
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(#05058) NEW YORK -- Hundreds of elementary school kids have been able to breathe a little easier and have fewer asthma attacks, thanks to the work of Rebecca Kalin and her group, the Asthma Free School Zone. Today, at a ceremony held on the steps of PS 57, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commended those efforts by awarding the group a national Children's Environmental Health Excellence Award and a regional Environmental Quality Award. These awards are given to non- profit, environmental and community groups, individual citizens, environmental education and business organizations and members of the news media for their exemplary achievements in protecting the local environment and furthering environmental awareness.

"Rebecca and her group, working with one school at a time, have really made a big difference in these childrens' lives," said Acting EPA Regional Administrator, Kathleen C. Callahan. "By working to improve the air quality inside and around public schools, they have successfully reduced the number and severity of asthma attacks and provided a healthier environment for the children and faculty."

Rebecca Kalin is the founder of Asthma Free School Zone (AFSZ), Exit EPA disclaimeran organization that views asthma as a community-wide concern, not just the plight of an individual. AFSZ has reduced absenteeism among school children caused by asthma-related illnesses by improving the air quality in the vicinity of schools through six health-related measures. These include designation of no-idling zones, classroom asthma education, faculty and staff training, the availability of asthma management equipment, community outreach and tracking of asthma-related absenteeism as a way of assessing program effectiveness. Rebecca started AFSZ at a school in the East Village and is now taking the program to the South Bronx, and Central and East Harlem.

"Environment, health and academic achievement are interconnected. When you don't feel well, you can't perform," said Rebecca Kalin. "Schools present a unique opportunity to put policies in place that protect the health of children in the classroom and on the playground. In Asthma Free School Zones, an informed community helps make it happen."

Asthma is the leading chronic illness of children in the United States; more than eight million children are afflicted nationwide. Every year, asthma attacks account for over 2.2 million doctor visits and 10 million missed days of school. At double the national level, New York City has the highest rates of asthma in the country.

The Asthma Free School Zone project is supported in part by the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, NYC Department of Transportation, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Asthma Initiative, South Bronx Asthma Partnership and NYC City Council.