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Study sheds light on child asthma rates

A new study has revealed some alarming statistics about the number of local children diagnosed with asthma.

PHOTOS: Impact of regional air pollution on childhood asthma outcomes

"She had to leave me on the sidewalk to go home to get the car to come and pick me up, because I got light-headed and hard to breathe," said Aiden Jackson, a 12-year-old with asthma.

Aiden's asthma can be set off by something as simple as a walk with his mother. He was diagnosed with asthma at 13 months old, and needs at least six doses of medication each day. When his mother was pregnant with him, they lived a few blocks away from a steel mill. It's the same home they live in today.

What you need to know about asthma:


"[Doctors] always say, 'Where do you live?' (and we reply) 'Well, we live in Clairton right by the mill', and they're like, 'Oh, OK'," said LeAnn Jackson, Aiden's mother. "They have never really said there's a connection, but they've never really said there wasn't a connection."

Now, a landmark study by Allegheny Health Network is making that connection. Researchers studied more than 1,200 local school children living near sources of industrial pollution. The study found 39 percent of the children were exposed to unhealthy levels of outdoor pollution. Of the children, 22 percent were diagnosed with asthma and of those, 60 percent have asthma that's uncontrolled.

Dr. Deborah Gentile, an asthma and immunology physician, said the study found the number of local children with asthma more than doubled both the state and national averages.

"Over half of them, about 60%, are poorly controlled. That means they are having symptoms every day and it's affecting their sleep, their daytime performance in school," said Gentile.

For Aiden, the asthma makes his school experience different for him than it is for his classmates.

"Whenever we have free time and we'll go outside and we'll run, it also gets my asthma worked up," said Aiden.

Things have gotten so bad that the Jacksons said they're selling their family home in search of a better lifestyle for Aiden, something Jackson said industrial plants could help prevent, but aren't.

"You can wash your car and go out two hours later, and your car is covered in soot," said LeAnn Jackson.

"Certainly our air is much cleaner than it had been decades ago, but we're just not catching up as fast with some of the other cities," said Gentile.

Channel 11's chief meteorologist Stephen Cropper shared his story on childhood asthma and the weather impacts on asthma. Feel free to comment, ask questions and share YOUR stories in the post below:

ASTHMA ALERT: A recent study found children in #Pittsburgh are diagnosed with asthma at double the national average. WPXI Stephen Cropper is talking about his experience with childhood asthma.

Posted by WPXI-TV Pittsburgh on Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Weather patterns can make it tough for asthma sufferers. While we enjoy the four seasons in Pittsburgh, we still struggle with air pollution, pollen and weather systems that can trigger asthma attacks.

Severe Weather Team 11 constantly monitors the latest air quality, because we know that pollutants can be moved by the winds or become stagnant.

20 people died in Donora in 1948 when a blanket of smog made the air hard to breathe.

Pollen can also be a problem, so Severe Weather Team 11 brings the latest pollen information so viewers can make outdoor plans.

Each season -- winter, spring, summer and fall brings a variety pollen irritants, so it's important to know what's blooming or budding.

And there are weather patterns that can trigger asthma attacks too. High pressure generally brings us sunny weather, but it can also usher in cold, dry air, which makes breathing harder.

Exercising in the winter, for example, can be a problem for those who suffer from asthma. Low pressure on the other hand, is generally associated with stormy weather-- rain and wind.

During periods of wet and windy weather, mold spores tend to go up and pollen is more easily blown around.

But with good planning you can still enjoy time outdoors. Grab the Severe Weather Team 11 app to get the latest watches, warnings or alerts, and, to find out when storm systems may be moving in.