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Experts Puzzled Over Some High Numbers in Utah Asthma Report

Experts Puzzled Over Some High Numbers in Utah Asthma Report



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A report on asthma among Utah children has experts scratching their heads over why some cities have high rates and others nearby have significantly different numbers.

"It's something we really want to find out, and we really want to get people working on it," said Patrick Lee, epidemiologist for the state's asthma program.

Woods Cross and North Salt Lake in Davis County, Riverdale and South Ogden in Weber County, and pockets of Salt Lake City had the highest rates, ranging from 12.9 percent to 16.2 percent. The state average is 8.5 percent.

Woods Cross has oil refineries and gravel pits. Some point to heavy industry as the reason for the high ranking because air pollution can influence asthma.

But the director of the Davis County Health Department isn't ready to draw that conclusion. "I'd be hesitant to say we've got good evidence or data that emissions from the refineries do or do not account for asthma rates," Lewis Garrett said. He hopes to add more air monitors throughout the county. Davis County has one.

Bountiful, just north of Woods Cross and North Salt Lake, had the lowest rate, 3.1 percent, according to a report released last week by the Utah Department of Health. Parts of Utah County were also near the bottom.

Lee said Utah's health agency plans to study asthma cases along major transportation routes, including Interstates 15 and 215, to see if they are higher, as other states have found.

No one is suggesting families should move if their children have asthma. Lee said it is more important to know what triggers the inflammation of their airways. "Somebody could move to Woods Cross and not have any issues as long as their asthma was under control," he said.

Craig Teerlink, who is pursuing a doctorate at the University of Utah, has been studying death certificates. He said he found strong evidence that asthma runs in families.

Richard Baird, principal at Woods Cross Elementary, said he hasn't noticed higher rates of asthma there than at other schools where he has worked. "There's a bunch of theories," he said, "but why?"

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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