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Program lets kids get involved with smog efforts

By Ivy Dai, Staff Writer
http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/Stories/0,1413,206~22097~2641689,00.html

DIAMOND BAR -- The South Coast Air Quality Management District will 
develop a Children's Clean Air Bill of Rights as part of a yearlong 
program in response to findings that children may suffer underdeveloped 
lungs because of smog.

In San Dimas, USC researchers found 500 children who played sports were 
affected by bad air and 8 percent had less than 80 percent lung 
capacity, according to a study released last year.

"We are not doing enough for the future of our children, knowing that 
poor lung function is second only to smoking as a risk factor for 
premature death," AQMD Chairman William Burke said Friday. "Every day we 
don't advance the cause for cleaner air is a day our children lose."

Burke, speaking at a board meeting attended by 350 people, also said the 
AQMD will hold mobile board meetings in Southern California communities 
and address environmental issues such as port and railroad pollution.

The AQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and 
portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

In the Children's Clean Air Bill of Rights, young people can sign 
petitions calling on all Southern Californians to quicken efforts to 
clean the air.

Visiting residents in their hometowns will help the district get a 
better feel of how pollution affects their quality of life, Burke said.

Asthma rates in California have risen dramatically in the last 20 years 
-- especially in children -- and smog triggers asthma attacks, according 
to American Lung Association of California spokeswoman Dr. Bonnie 
Holmes-Gen.

Children's lungs develop all the way to early adulthood, and are more 
susceptible to pollution because they breathe in more air per pound of 
body weight, and breathe more rapidly, she said.

"If their lungs are underdeveloped, they're more at risk for lung 
illness later in life," she said. "The recent USC study found a 
1-percent decrease in lung growth rate per year in children in 
California versus children in less-polluted areas."

Asthma attacks are a huge problem that lead to school absences, parents 
missing work and increased emergency room visits and hospitalization, 
she said.

However, the higher numbers of asthma cases in San Dimas and the 
surrounding region may be explained by other factors, such as access to 
health care, according to San Dimas High School Principal Kristine Kulow.

"In San Dimas, you have a larger population of middle-class kids who 
have access to health care and get identified as having asthma," she 
said. "We have mommies who run their kids to doctors for everything. For 
other parents, if you had to pay for it, you'd probably say to your kids 
suck it up.' "

AQMD sends San Dimas High and other schools in the region daily 
advisories on air quality, and the school adapts itsexercise curriculum 
accordingly.

The Los Angeles basin has the worst smog in the country, and the air 
tends to stagnate closer to the mountains, Kulow said.

-- Ivy Dai can be reached at (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2730, or by e-mail at 
ivy.dai@sgvn.com 

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