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CDC 24/7 - Saving Money Through Prevention - Maryland's Success

Tracking air pollution and asthma

Young girl receiving breathing treatment in hospital bed

What is the problem?

In 2007, an estimated 550,000 (12.9%) Maryland adults and 190,000 (13.6%) children reported a lifetime history of asthma. In addition, about 43,000 Maryland residents were treated for asthma in emergency departments, and nearly 9,800 persons were hospitalized for asthma. Fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, which comes from vehicles, power plants and wildfires as well as other sources, can go deep in the lungs of adults and children, and can contribute to asthma attacks and more asthma emergency department visits and hospital stays.

What did Tracking do?

The Maryland Tracking Program used asthma emergency room visit and hospital discharge data from the health department and air data from the MDE and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to carry out an EPA- funded project, to examine the relationship between asthma rates and fine particulate levels in and around Baltimore.

Improved public health

This data linkage project, which used 2005-2006 data, found that asthma emergency department visits and inpatient hospital stays went up on days when on-the-ground air monitors recorded more PM2.5 in the air. Local public health officials from Baltimore and nearby communities can use these results to determine if local policies that regulate PM2.5 sources should be re-evaluated and perhaps modified.