63,000 in Dane County Suffer Chronic Respiratory Disease

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 - 4:59am

Affects 14% of Adults and 11% of Children

We normally don't pay much attention to breathing, unless we suddenly find ourselves gasping for air and struggling to catch our breath. However, 63,000 residents of Dane County find themselves in this terrifying situation when pollutants in the air cause them to have an asthma attack.

Asthma is one of the leading causes of childhood hospitalizations, long-term illness, and school and job absenteeism each year. In Wisconsin, 22,000 emergency department visits and 5,500 hospitalizations each year are linked to asthma.

Asthma is a long-term, inflammatory disease in which the air passages of the lungs tighten and narrow, causing wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. Asthma can be controlled with proper medical care, but it is not curable.

One of the significant threats to asthma sufferers is air pollution. The two main pollutants that affect asthma are fine particulate matter and ozone. The major sources of emissions that form ozone include cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles. Fine particle pollution also comes from transportation sources, as well as diesel engines, wood burning, and other industrial and commercial combustion processes.

Dane County continues to meet state and federal standards and enjoy a majority of days with "good" quality air. However, we still have days when the air quality is unhealthy, particularly for sensitive groups (e.g. children, the elderly, and individuals with respiratory or cardiovascular disease). In 2009, there were 10 days that reached the federal "unhealthy for sensitive groups" classification due to high levels of fine particulate matter.

"The Dane County Clean Air Coalition works with residents, businesses, government agencies and institutions to promote simple voluntary actions that will reduce polluted air emissions and protect the health of local residents," said Lisa MacKinnon, Project Coordinator of the Clean Air Coalition. "World Asthma Day is a perfect opportunity to point out that each of us can do our share for healthier air."

The efforts of the Coalition and its partners have generated significant progress in several areas of emission reduction, including work with Dane County manufacturers and other employers, gas stations and school bus operators.

By making smart choices about how we get to and from work, school and daily errands, how we heat, cool and light our homes and offices, and even how we maintain our homes and yards, we all can make a difference in reducing the air pollution that aggravates asthma and increases the health risks to many others in our community.

For more information on the asthma and air quality connection and what you can do, check the following links:

Dane County Clean Air Coalition: www.healthyairdane.org

The Dane County Clean Air Coalition's Air Quality and Asthma Primer: http://www.healthyairdane.org/downloads/AirQualityandAsthmaHandout.April...

Dane County Asthma Coalition:

Public Health Air Quality link:

WI DNR- -lists air quality watches and advisories:

Wisconsin Asthma Coalition:


Public Health Madison & Dane County, Dane County Asthma Coalition and Dane County Clean Air Coalition


  • Lisa MacKinnon, Dane County Clean Air Coalition(608) 335-5193
  • Sally Zirbel-Donisch, Dane County Asthma Coalition(608) 663-8424
  • Jeff Golden(608) 243-0302