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Release Date: 05/07/2002
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Environmental News



Cathy Milbourn 202-564-7824 /

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency marked World Asthma Day and Asthma Awareness Month at George Mason Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., by recognizing the efforts to fight childhood asthma and raise awareness of the disease that affects approximately 15 million people of all ages and races and 4.8 million children.

“Although there is no known cure for asthma, there are simple steps you can take today to reduce your exposure to these triggers and help prevent an asthma attack,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. “World Asthma Day is an excellent opportunity to reach out to parents, school nurses and teachers and urge them to learn more about prevention and ways to protect children from asthma attacks.”

Asthma has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. While 15 million people are affected, of particular concern is the growing number of children with asthma. Since 1980, the largest increase in asthma cases has been in children under the age of five. Asthma attacks cause one third of all pediatric emergency room visits. Asthma is also the fourth most common reason for pediatric physician office visits, and is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism accounting for approximately 10 million school days missed each year.

In response to these alarming statistics, and in an effort to raise public awareness of the risks Americans face living with asthma, the EPA has several programs that are aggressively stepping up the fight against childhood asthma.
  • The EPA presented several awards today at George Mason Elementary School in Alexandria, Va. The awardees included the PBS television show ARTHUR® produced by WGBH in Boston, which received EPA’s National Environmental Asthma Educator Award; Kim Gosselin, the author of “Taking Asthma to School,” received EPA’s National Environmental Asthma Writers Award; and Robin Wallin, George Mason Elementary school nurse, who received EPA’s World Asthma Day Recognition Award.
  • President Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative seeks to address air pollutants that impact respiratory illnesses, including asthma. The proposal would set mandatory caps that would dramatically reduce power plant emissions of sulfur dioxides (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and mercury. If enacted into law, this single program will improve air quality more quickly and more efficiently than can be accomplished under current law. The Clear Skies initiative is an action that would significantly help address public health threats and would mean thousands fewer premature deaths and cases of chronic bronchitis; thousands fewer emergency room visits and hospitalizations and millions fewer respiratory illnesses, including asthma. For more information about the Clear Skies Initiative, visit the EPA's Clear Skies website
  • During Asthma Awareness Month, EPA is partnering with other Federal and non-profit organizations to sponsor and hold hundreds of asthma awareness events around the country in schools, libraries, health clinics and hospitals.
  • The EPA’s national Smoke-Free Home Pledge Initiative educates adults that secondhand smoke is an environmental trigger for asthma, and motivates parents to make their homes and cars smoke-free. When parents smoke in their home, it puts children in increased risk of asthma attacks as well as childhood bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, and even sudden infant death syndrome. The Smoke-Free Home Pledge Initiative includes a national TV and print campaign, the distribution of thousands of brochures, collaboration with State and local organizations, and a toll-free pledge hotline. The Major League Baseball Guide to the 2002 season features a full-page ad of President Bush saying, “Here’s the Pitch.... Help Strike Out Asthma. Take the Smoke-Free Home Pledge Today.” For more information about the Smoke-Free Home Pledge Initiative visit the website at or call the toll-free Smoke-Free Home Pledge Hotline at 1-800-513-1157. The Smoke Free Pledge is available on-line at
  • The award winning public service announcement (PSA), “I Feel Like a Fish With No Water,” is a product of a partnership between EPA and the Advertising Council. The now familiar message alerts parents to indoor environmental triggers of asthma attacks. Over the next three years, the EPA will participate in a campaign of PSAs in English and Spanish for television, radio, newspapers, buses, and subways.

The EPA offers a number of resources for parents and children to understand and manage asthma. For a free information packet, call the Childhood Asthma “Fish Out of Water” hotline at 1-800-315-8056. Visit EPA’s asthma website at for a list of asthma education activities in your local area.

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