The Creation of an Asthma Generation?

Asthma is the most common chronic childhood illness and has markedly increased over the last few decades. A 2009 study by Cook Children’s Health System found that youth in a six county area around Fort Worth were diagnosed with asthma at rates as high as 25% of their age group. Evidence is mounting that cement plants and other heavy industry in Ellis County, along with vehicle traffic and gas drilling, are making childhood asthma worse. Just a generation ago few remembered that many children having asthma in the Fort Worth area, but today this respiratory disease is the most important children’s health issue in North Texas. Some wonder if we are seeing the beginning of an asthma generation.

An article in the Fort Worth Weekly wondered if the air pollution from heavy industry around Fort Worth was responsible for the high asthma rates. It noted that researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington last fall observed that the bulk of Tarrant County asthma cases were right in the path of southeasterly winds that usually carry high levels of particulate matter from working cement plants near Midlothian. Further, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reviewed air samples and air quality monitoring reports in the Midlothian area and concluded that ozone, particulate matter, lead, and sulfur dioxide from the Midlothian industries could indeed have harmed the health of area residents.

These findings and the high rate of childhood asthma is of obvious concern to residents in this North Texas area, but according to the American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2012” report, this area of the country is not even in the top 20 cities with particulate pollution, although it is #12 for ozone pollution. Overall the report found that over 41% of Americans live in 235 counties where individuals are exposed to unhealthful levels of air pollution from either ozone or short-term or year-round levels of particles.
Residents in the counties surrounding Fort Worth have a reason to be concerned, but consider that California leads the list of the most polluted cities in the U.S. with 10 cities on the top 25 worst cities list. Are we creating a generation of asthma sufferers?

Click here to read the Fort Worth Weekly article , and here to view the key findings from the American Lung Association’s (ALA) “State of the Air 2012” report, and here to view the ALA’s top 25 polluted cities for ozone, short or year round particulate pollution in 2012.

Halde Hoheward Smog in Winter, image © Rainer Halama / Wikimedia