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Pittsburgh's Childhood Asthma Rates 'Alarmingly High,' According To Researcher

High rates of asthma in Allegheny County are keeping kids out of schools and impacting learning, according to research by a local pediatrician. Pittsburgh has one of the highest rates of air pollution in the country, one of the strongest factors for childhood asthma.

The study by Deborah Gentile reveals more than 22 percent of children in some Pittsburgh schools have asthma, much higher than the national average of just more than 10 percent. Gentile says this high rate of childhood asthma is alarming.

"There are studies showing it impacts their learning, these kids don't sleep well at night, they're tired during the day, and they're missing school and some of them are hospitalized," she said.

Gentile said this impacts low-income and minority children the most, as they tend to live closer to industrial plants and have the most exposure to industrial pollutants.

Of the children who had cases of asthma confirmed by a physician, only 40 percent had "controlled" the respiratory condition, meaning they were mostly healthy. The other 60 percent with "uncontrolled" asthma missed school and visited emergency rooms because of the condition.

Gentile says the power is in the hands of companies that create environmental pollutants. 

"We need to try to clean up the air more," she said. "We are getting cleaner air over time, but we're still not catching up as fast as some other cities."

She says as of now, it's less expensive for companies to pay fines for polluting to the Environmental Protection Agency for polluting over limits, than for them to upgrade their materials.

(Photo Credit: Lotzman Katzman on Flickr)