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Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

May Is Asthma Awareness Month

Posted by Shivi Kakar

May 6, 2014 10:19:00 AM

May_Asthma_AwarenessThe Center for Disease Control (CDC) is one of the nation’s leading forces in the fight to control asthma through its National Asthma Control Program and its National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH).  The White House, for its parts, has recently issued new initiatives to help control ozone to improve air quality.

Asthma, a disease that affects the lungs, causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing.  While asthma can be controlled by taking medicine, it is best controlled by avoiding the triggers that can cause an attack.

Unfortunately, asthma sufferers are particularly affected by air pollution which can make avoiding that trigger difficult. The CDC, in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is urging U.S. residents to pay attention to their local air quality broadcasts this month.  The CDC states that “One in 12 U.S. residents (approximately 25.5 million persons) currently has asthma, and nine persons in the United States die from asthma-related complications every day. Ozone air pollution, more common in the summer months, can trigger asthma attacks, leading to increased medication use, visits to emergency departments, and hospital admissions. Persons with asthma and other at-risk groups can use daily forecasts of the Air Quality Index to plan exercise and other outdoor activities for times when air pollution is predicted to be low”.

Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Cut Methane Emissions

Methane gas is a potent greenhouse gas. It also contributes to ground level ozone, which contributes to air pollution, particularly troublesome for people who suffer from asthma.  Although the levels of methane have decreased by 11 percent since 1990, the White House targets methane gas emissions in the United States as part of a larger, international initiative to lower global levels of greenhouse gases. 

In its Climate Action Plan, initiated in June 2013, the Obama Administration has developed a comprehensive, interagency strategy to cut methane emissions, issuing a Fact Sheet in March of this year. The strategy for this massive undertaking is to build upon the progress to date and take voluntary steps to further reduce methane from a number of key resources as follows:

  • Coal Mines.   In April, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a notice to the public with the purpose of gathering input on the development of a program designed for the capture and sale or disposal of waste mine methane on lands leased by the Federal government. The EPA also plans to partner with industries to reduce institutional, technical, regulatory, and financial barriers to the benefit of methane recovery.
  • Landfills. This summer the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be proposing updated standards for reducing methane in new landfills while simultaneously take public comment on whether to update standards for existing landfills. They will also be partnering with industry, state, and local leaders to work on voluntary measures to reduce methane as well as put methane to work powering the local communities.
  • Agriculture. The dairy industry, US Department of Agriculture (USDA), EPA, and the Department of Energy (DoE) are jointly releasing a "Biogas Roadmap" outlining strategies to accelerate adoption of methane digesters and other cost-effective technologies. These technologies have the potential to reduce the U.S. dairy sector emissions by 25 percent over the next 6 years.
  • Oil and Gas. In the spring, the EPA will assess several potential sources for significant amounts of methane emissions. During this time they will solicit input from experts through white papers. In the fall the EPA begin to determine how to best pursue further reductions by both voluntary and regulatory means. These regulations are slated to be completed by the end of 2016. However, later this year the BLM is proposing updated standards to reduce venting and flaring from oil and gas production on public lands.


Topics: National Asthma Control Program, National Center for Environmental Health, Asthma Awareness, air quality concerns

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