Lung Disease

What is Asthma?

Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children. There may be genetic, socioeconomic, and/or behavioral traits that increase the risk among children, particularly among minority children, who tend to live in close proximity to sources of traffic-related air pollution.

From the Centers for Disease Control (2012):

“Asthma is a disease that affects your lungs. It is one of the most common long-term diseases of children, but adults can have asthma, too. Asthma causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing at night or early in the morning. If you have asthma, you have it all the time, but you will have asthma attacks only when something bothers your lungs.

In most cases, we don’t know what causes asthma, and we don’t know how to cure it. We know that if someone in your family has asthma you are more likely to have it.”

Source: Centers for Disease Control. 2012. Asthma: Basic Information.


  • Asthma is one of the leading causes of days missed in school. In 2008 nearly 14 million school days were missed by children with an asthma attack in the previous year1
  • The percentage of people with asthma has been increasing in the past decades
  • 40 million people in the United States have had asthma
  • Asthma is most common among those aged 5-17 (9 million are affected)
  • While 5-17 year-olds make up 18% of the population, they represent 23% of people with asthma
  • Asthma is more common among boys than among girls
  • Among adults, asthma is more common among women than men
  • 1 in 11 children has asthma — that’s 7 million children

Source: Esteban Gonzalez Burchard Laboratory

Risk Factors

  • Early life exposure to NO2 , most commonly sourced from car exhaust, is associated with asthma
  • There may be genetic, socioeconomic, or behavioral traits that make minorities more susceptible to pollution-induced asthma
  • African Americans and Puerto Ricans die from asthma at nearly 3 times the rate as Whites

Source: Esteban Gonzalez Burchard Laboratory

Source: Esteban Gonzalez Burchard Laboratory