By: Alyssa Marsico

PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio1020 KDKA) – Asthma in children can be dangerous, especially if you live in Pittsburgh.

It’s labeled as the 16th most challenging US city in which to live with asthma, by the Allergy and Asthma Foundation.

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Studies show that 9 percent of children suffer from asthma, but a local doctor says some schools in the Pittsburgh area report 50 percent of children are using a rescue inhaler for asthma.

Dr. Deborah Gentile, Director of Research in the Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at Allegheny General Hospital, will be heading up an investigation to find the cause of these staggering numbers in our region.

The Heinz Endowments has awarded Allegheny General Hospital a $415,000 grant to conduct this study into the true prevalence of asthma in children.

Dr. Gentile said on the Afternoon News with Bill Rehkopf, “Local prevalence of asthma is quite high, Pittsburgh does have inner city areas that there’s still problems with air pollution and there is a lot of indoor smoking yet. There are a lot of triggers that may be causing an increase risk of asthma.”

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Air in southwestern Pennsylvania still ranks among the dirties in the nation it is known to lead to health problems including asthma, cancer, as well as heart and lung disease. Even though it could be a huge factor locally, it still may not be the only one Dr. Gentile said.

“To really try to study what those risks are and then to intervene we first need to get a good number, you know a good handle on the number of patients with the problem,” she said. “That’s really what this is a firs step in a multi-step process.”

The project will enroll 150 fifth graders from three elementary schools. Physicians will track their airway function and also track the children’s body mass index and exposure to tobacco smoke or physiological stress.

Listen to the whole interview below:

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You can also listen to the KDKA Afternoon News with Bill Rehkopf weekdays 3-7 p.m.