ASTHMA: Sacramento Study Finds Strong Link with Pollutants
A study of the health effects of pollution in the Sacramento metropolitan area has found a "remarkably strong link" between poor air quality and childhood asthma, the Sacramento Bee reports. Analyzing hospital Medi-Cal records from 1992-1994, researchers found an association between high ozone levels and a 14% rise in the number of asthma- related hospital and emergency room visits for low-income children and adolescents. Michael Lipsett, the study's lead investigator, said, "There seemed to be a pretty strong relationship between ozone and asthma attacks, compared with several other studies," adding, "It may be, in Sacramento, that ozone is a much more important factor than other air pollutants." According to the CDC, 62,000 Sacramento County residents -- roughly 5.5% of the population -- have asthma, including 19,500 adolescents. The new study contributes to mounting evidence linking childhood asthma to air pollutants. By focusing on Sacramento, health and environmental officials hope to draw a personal connection for state lawmakers. "It brings home to our legislators reasons for continuing the pressure to reduce emissions," Joanne Sharpless, head of the Health Effects Task Force for the local lung association, said. Sacramento is frequently ranked as one of the 10 smoggiest urban areas in the country because of high levels of ozone, a byproduct of vehicle emissions. The county risks losing millions of federal dollars for highway expansion if it fails to reduce ozone levels to the federal limit by 2005. Air district officials are now pushing for publicly funded programs to help subsidize cleaning efforts of businesses' truck and bus fleets. "As you get into more costly and intrusive pollution controls, people need to know that there is a direct health benefit," Sharpless said (Bowman, 7/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.