Illinois Becomes 8th State in the U.S. to Raise Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

For Immediate Release:

March 14, 2019

Contact: Erica Krutsch

Desk – 312-628-0225

Legislation Passes General Assembly, Awaits Governor Signature

CHICAGO – On Thursday, March 14, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation to raise the tobacco purchase age across the state to 21 from 18. The bill passed the House on Tuesday, March 12 before moving on to the Senate Thursday where it passed with bipartisan support. The policy, often referred to as Tobacco 21, aims to reduce youth smoking by removing legal tobacco purchasers from teen social circles.

“We know that 95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21. And we know that the tobacco industry actively targets young people,” said Joel Africk, president and CEO of Respiratory Health Association. “Tobacco 21 will help keep cigarettes and vaping products out of our schools and give our children the chance to live healthier lives.”

Growing support for Tobacco 21 had previously led to thirty-six communities across the state adopting local laws to raise the tobacco purchase age. These local laws covered approximately 30 percent of the state’s population. A recent study, conducted by Fako and Associates, showed that two out of three adults in Illinois support Tobacco 21, a figure that is even higher among current and former smokers.

Each year tobacco use costs Illinois $5.49 billion in health care costs and $5.27 billion in lost productivity, according to research from the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids. RHA estimates that the law would save Illinois $500 million in future healthcare costs and avoid $500 million more in lost productivity associated with smoking and tobacco related illnesses. Additionally, the Institute of Medicine estimates that raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 could result in a 12 percent decrease in smoking rates by the time today’s teenagers become adults.

RHA would like to thank Senator Julie Morrison for her role as the lead senate sponsor and Representative Camille Lilly for her role as the lead house sponsor.

Tobacco 21 previously passed the General Assembly in 2018, but then-Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure. RHA looks forward to Governor Pritzker’s signing of the legislation.

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 Respiratory Health Association (RHA) works to reduce the toll of tobacco on our communities, particularly among our youth. RHA serves as Healthy Chicago’s community co-leader for tobacco control and offers evidence-based tobacco control strategies and smoking cessation programs throughout Illinois. Respiratory Health Association played a leading role in the passage of Smoke-Free Illinois and has been a strong advocate for statewide adoption of Tobacco 21 in Illinois. To learn more, visit www.resphealth.org.

Statement Applauding Illinois House’s Passage of Tobacco 21

March 12, 2019

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) congratulates the Illinois House on the passage of HB345, a statewide “Tobacco 21” bill that raises the age to purchase tobacco products in the state from 18 to 21. The House passed the legislation today 82-31. Special thanks to Rep. Camille Lilly who sponsored the bill.

A cornerstone of RHA’s work is to reduce the toll of tobacco on our communities, particularly among our youth. Tobacco 21 laws are important because 95 percent of adult smokers take up the habit before they turn 21. By raising the purchase age from 18 to 21, the law will help keep tobacco out of schools and away from teens.

“Too many kids are exposed to tobacco products in their teenage years,” said Joel Africk, President and CEO, Respiratory Health Association. “If we can keep kids away from tobacco until they’re 21, they’re far less likely to become addicted and can live healthier lives.”

Tobacco 21 will yield significant health and economic benefits.  The Institute of Medicine estimates that raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 could result in a 12 percent decrease in smoking rates by the time today’s teenagers become adults.

“We estimate statewide Tobacco 21 legislation in Illinois will save $500 million in future healthcare costs and avoid $500 million more in lost productivity associated with smoking and tobacco related illnesses,” continued Africk.

Tobacco 21 previously passed the General Assembly in 2018, but then-Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure. A majority of adults in Illinois support the measure. Growing support for Tobacco 21 led to thirty-six communities across the state adopting local laws to raise the tobacco purchase age. These local laws cover approximately 30 percent of the state’s population and paved the way for statewide action.

Prior to working on Tobacco 21, RHA advocated strongly for the Smoke-free Illinois Act, which passed in 2007. That legislation was the strongest statewide smoke-free law in the country.

RHA Statement on E-Cigarettes & Vaping Products

Respiratory Health Association Statement on Electronic Cigarettes & Vaping Products

As conventional cigarette use in the United States has declined, electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use rates have continued to climb, particularly among youth. Vaping devices, such as the widely popularized Juul, have become a mainstay in places of education, with 42.2 percent of U.S. high school students having used an e-cigarette. Recent data show that U.S. youth e-cigarette use increased by 78 percent in 2018, prompting U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Gottlieb to declare youth use of e-cigarettes an “epidemic”.

The increased use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices by youth poses a grave public health concern. These products are unregulated and contain at least 60 different chemical compounds, some of which are known to be toxic, carcinogenic and linked to cardiac disease. E-cigarette vapor is not just water vapor. E-cigarettes have not been proven safe—especially for young people. Exposure to nicotine during adolescence can negatively impact brain development and cognition and can serve as a gateway to conventional tobacco use. E-cigarette use is also associated with an increased risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke.

Studies show that flavored tobacco products serve as starter products for many smokers, which lead to nicotine addiction and can serve as a gateway to traditional tobacco use. According to data from 2013-2014, 4 out of 5 youth who are current tobacco users started by using a flavored product. Flavors can also alter youth perception of the dangers of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes (which come in over 15,000 flavors), which results in increased use of these products.

E-cigarettes are not an FDA-approved tobacco cessation product. Although a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that e-cigarettes are more effective in smoking cessation than nicotine-replacement therapy, the results are not generalizable. The study was conducted in the United Kingdom with different e-cigarette products than those offered in the U.S., and the treatment included intensive behavioral support. In addition, it is difficult to assign a standard risk-reduction label to all e-cigarette products because they are not currently regulated, and the array of available e-cigarette products and technologies can vary so much. The long-term health effects of e-cigarette use are still not known, and the study did not address the dangers of nicotine addiction. At the conclusion of the study, 80 percent of those in the e-cigarette treatment group were still using e-cigarettes, compared with 9 percent of those in the nicotine-replacement group still using nicotine replacement. In the U.S., more than half of all e-cigarette users aged 25 and older are also current cigarette smokers.

Respiratory Health Association is committed to taking action to reduce the toll of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, on our communities, including:

  • Raising the minimum legal sales age of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping products, from 18 to 21
  • Adding e-cigarettes to existing smoke-free laws
  • Clarifying definitions of tobacco to include e-cigarette and vaping products
  • Licensing tobacco and e-cigarette retailers
  • Restricting the sales of flavored tobacco and vape products
  • Raising the tax on e-cigarettes and vaping products

Statement Supporting Wider Restrictions on Vaping Products and E-Cigarettes

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) applauds the expected FDA action to ban sales of most flavored e-cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations across the country.

Vaping devices, such as the widely popularized Juul, have become a mainstay in places of education, with 42.2 percent of U.S. high school students having used an e-cigarette. Recent data show e-cigarette use skyrocketed among youth, prompting Commissioner Gottlieb to declare youth use of e-cigarettes an “epidemic”.

The increased use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices by youth poses a grave public health concern. These products are unregulated and contain nicotine, heavy metals, ultrafine particles, and other carcinogens. They have not been proven safe – especially for young people. They are not an FDA-approved tobacco cessation product, and e-cigarette vapor is not just water vapor, despite what some may claim.

Flavored tobacco products appeal to youth. According to data from 2013-2014, 4 out of 5 youth who tried tobacco started by using a flavored product. Flavors can also alter youth perception of the dangers of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, which results in increased use of these products. Studies show that flavored tobacco products serve as starter products for many smokers, which lead to nicotine addiction and can serve as a gateway to traditional tobacco use.

Restricted access is a proven strategy and logical step for discouraging youth from using these products.  These actions will saves lives and bring us one step closer to a tobacco-free generation.

Respiratory Health Association has submitted public comments and testimony to the federal government regarding the impact of flavored tobacco and vaping products. We remain committed to taking action to reduce youth use of all tobacco products including e-cigarettes.

RHA Statement on Governor Rauner’s Veto of Tobacco 21

On Friday, August 24, 2018, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed Senate Bill 2332, legislation that would have substantially reduced youth smoking and saved the state hundreds of millions of dollars in future health care costs by raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 from 18.

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) is incredibly disappointed in Governor Rauner’s decision to veto this legislation after it passed the Illinois General Assembly.  The bill is also supported by a majority of Illinois residents. A recent study, conducted by Fako and Associates, showed that two out of three adults in Illinois support Tobacco 21, a figure that is even higher among current and former smokers.

A cornerstone of RHA’s work has been to reduce the toll of tobacco on our communities, particularly among our youth. At this point, 26 communities across the state have adopted local laws to raise the tobacco purchase age. These local laws cover more than 30 percent of the state’s population and will remain in full force and effect.

Tobacco 21 laws are important because 95 percent of adult smokers take up the habit before they turn 21. By raising the purchase age from 18 to 21, the law would have helped keep tobacco out of schools and away from teens.

“Too many kids are being exposed to tobacco products in their teenage years,” said Joel Africk, President and CEO, Respiratory Health Association. “If we can keep kids away from tobacco until they’re 21, they’re far less likely to become addicted and can live healthier lives.”

Tobacco 21 also would have yielded significant health and economic benefits.  The Institute of Medicine estimates that raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 could result in a 12 percent decrease in smoking rates by the time today’s teenagers become adults. RHA estimates that in Illinois alone the law would save $500 million in future healthcare costs and avoid $500 million more in lost productivity associated with smoking and tobacco related illnesses.

“Respiratory Health Association is undeterred.  We will continue to fight to protect kids across Illinois from smoking and tobacco addiction in the next legislative session. Tobacco 21 is the right thing to do,” continued Africk.

To date five states – California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and Oregon – and hundreds of municipalities around the US have raised the tobacco purchase age to 21.

Prior to working on Tobacco 21, RHA advocated strongly for the Smoke-free Illinois Act, which passed in 2007. That legislation was the strongest statewide smoke-free law in the country.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Chicago since 1906. A policy leader, our organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for Tobacco 21 and Other Tobacco Product policies. For more information, visit www.resphealth.org.

Environmental and Public Health Groups Challenge US EPA’s Decision to Exclude Areas from Ozone Non-attainment List that Would Trigger Clean-up

Environmental and Public Health Groups Challenge US EPA’s Decision to Exclude Areas from Ozone Non-attainment List that Would Trigger Clean-up

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 2, 2018

Contact: Judith Nemes
(312) 795-3706
[email protected]

Washington, D.C.On August 2, the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and Respiratory Health Association (RHA) sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the EPA’s final rule, published in June 2018, that identified areas that meet and fail to meet the 2015 ozone air quality health standard.

ELPC and RHA are challenging the exclusion of certain areas in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana from the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis “non-attainment” areas that have smog levels above the 2015 standard.

“EPA has sadly disregarded the plain facts and sound science in making these designations,” said Howard Learner, ELPC’s Executive Director. “EPA has not followed the letter or the spirit of the Clean Air Act and has excluded areas involving unhealthy air quality for millions of Midwesterners. Cleaner air is essential to public health and a strong economy in our region.”

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to designate non-attainment areas in counties where air quality fails to meet federal health standards for ozone and where local emissions contribute to unhealthy air quality. The states must then take steps to reduce emissions of the air pollution that cause smog.

In 2015, EPA issued a more protective ozone air health standard, which triggered a process to identify violating areas so that clean air planning could begin. In the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis areas, EPA originally proposed more comprehensive non-attainment areas, but excluded certain areas in its final decision in June in response to requests from the states.

“We are very concerned that EPA would dial back these decisions,” said Brian Urbaszewski, Director of Environmental Health Programs at Respiratory Health Association in Chicago. “Everyone deserves to breathe clean air, and EPA’s decision puts area residents at risk of more lung infections, asthma attacks, and hospitalizations for respiratory problems.”

Ozone is formed when pollution emitted by power plants, industrial facilities, motor vehicles and other activities reacts with sunlight to form ozone. Ozone, also known as “smog,” is a lung irritant and harms people with asthma or other respiratory diseases, older adults, children and other vulnerable people. It can drive kids and sensitive adults inside on hot sunny summer days  and put outdoor workers at risk.

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Tobacco Policy Experts & CEO Available to Discuss Tobacco 21 Legislation

Interview Availability: Tobacco Policy Experts & CEO Available to Discuss Tobacco 21 Legislation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 23, 2018
Erica Krutsch
Desk: 312-628-0226
Cell: 734-262-4527

WHAT:            Respiratory Health Association, a local leader in tobacco policy change and key advocate for Tobacco 21 in Illinois, has expert staff available for comment on the passage of Tobacco 21 in Illinois.

WHY:               In communities across Illinois, the passage of local Tobacco 21 laws has led to significant declines in cigarette use by youth. In Chicago, where the Tobacco 21 law was accompanied by other City efforts to tighten laws restricting youth access to tobacco, the effect appears to be even more dramatic.

The health consequence of this development is significant because 95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21, making early intervention a key strategy in building a tobacco-free generation.  Each year tobacco use costs Illinois $5.49 billion in health care costs and $5.27 billion in lost productivity, according to research from the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids.

Respiratory Health Association serves as Healthy Chicago’s community co-leader for tobacco control and offers evidence-based tobacco control strategies and smoking cessation programs. Respiratory Health Association played a leading role in the passage of Smoke-Free Illinois and has been a strong advocate for statewide adoption of Tobacco 21 in Illinois.

WHEN:             Immediately 

WHO:  Joel J. Africk – President and Chief Executive Officer
             Respiratory Health Association
              Available on site or by phone

              Matt Maloney – Director, Health Policy
             Respiratory Health Association
              Available on site or by phone

WHERE:        Respiratory Health Association

                        1440 West Washington Blvd., Chicago, IL 60607

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Metropolitan Chicago since 1906. A policy leader, our organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies.  We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for Tobacco 21 and Other Tobacco Product policies.  For more information, visit www.resphealth.org.

Over 200 Cyclists Ride to Fight Lung Disease at CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 25, 2018
 
Contact: Erica Krutsch
Desk: 312-628-0225 
Cell: 734-262-4527

Over 200 cyclists ride to fight lung disease at CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour

WHAT: Respiratory Health Association’s CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour is an annual cycling event from Lake County, Illinois through southern Wisconsin. Over 200 cyclists of all ages from across Chicagoland will line up at Gurnee Mills to pedal as far as 190 miles in Respiratory Health Association’s 22nd annual CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour. Participants will bike 18 miles, one, two or three days and cross the finish line in Hubertus, Wisc. The event will raise $200,000 for Respiratory Health Association’s lung disease research and programs.

WHY: The tour raises awareness and funds to fight lung diseases such as asthma, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and to support clean air and other healthy lung initiatives. This year’s event kicks off with special guests Illinois State Senator Terry Link, Lake County Board Member Paul Frank and youth advocates for lung health from the Catalyst Youth Prevention Group of Stevenson High School. Respiratory Health Association will thank participants for the important roles they played in passing Illinois’ new Tobacco 21 legislation, which raises the tobacco purchase age to 21 from 18, a policy proven to reduce teen smoking. The deadline for Gov. Rauner to sign Tobacco 21 into law is August 27.

WHEN: Saturday – Monday, August 4, 5 and 6, 2018. Start line media opportunities begin at 7:00 a.m. Ride begins at 9:00 a.m.

WHERE: Start line located in Gurnee Mills Parking Lot H, at the intersection of Interstate 94 and Grand Avenue (IL 132) in Gurnee, Ill. Cyclists will travel through southern Wisconsin Aug. 5 and 6 with stops in Williams Bay, Whitewater, and Hubertus, Wisc.

SCHEDULE FOR PHOTO/VIDEO OPPORTUNITIES:

  • 7:00 a.m. Riders begin arriving in Gurnee Mills Parking Lot H to check in
  • 9:00 a.m. The Charity Bike Tour officially kicks off with Lake County legislators ringing the official start line bell. Riders depart for Wisconsin as a mass start.
  • Media opportunities at other points of the ride can be arranged by contacting Erica Krutsch, RHA Director of Marketing & Communications, at 734-262-4527.

INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITIES (REQUESTED IN ADVANCE IF POSSIBLE):

  • Hundreds of cyclists, many of whom are personally affected by lung disease
  • Youth advocates for lung health from the Catalyst Youth Prevention Group of Stevenson High School (Lincolnshire, Ill.), representing the youth sector of Stand Strong Coalition
  • Joel Africk, President and CEO of Respiratory Health Association
  • Illinois State Senator Terry Link
  • Lake County Board Member Paul Frank

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader since 1906. Today, the association works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air and help people live better through education, research and policy change. For more information, visit www.resphealth.org.

Governor Signs New ‘Stock Asthma Rescue Medication’ Law Making Schools Safer for Children with Asthma

Governor Signs New ‘Stock Asthma Rescue Medication’ Law Making Schools Safer for Children with Asthma

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 7, 2018

CONTACT:
Erica Krutsch
Director, Marketing and Communications
Respiratory Health Association
Desk: (312) 628-0225
Cell: (734) 262-4527

Illinois schools are one step closer to creating a safer environment for students living with asthma. Stock Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools (SB 3015) was passed by the Illinois Legislature this spring and signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner on August 3rd.

Illinois now joins ten other states including Indiana and Missouri in adopting similar policies regarding stock asthma medication. Early results in other states indicate that these policies reduce the need for 911 calls and EMS transports as a result of asthma attacks. Initial data also demonstrate that these policies reach populations of need and improve health outcomes.

Stock Asthma Rescue Medication in Schools—SB3015, now Public Act 100-0726—improves access improves access to life-saving medication by allowing schools to stock ‘undesignated’ asthma rescue medication and allowing school nurses and trained school staff to administer the medication at the first signs of respiratory distress. This legislation builds on a 2014 Illinois law allowing schools to stock undesignated epinephrine auto-injectors to protect those who may experience a severe allergy in school.

Across Illinois, more than 330,000 children have reported asthma; however, fewer than twenty-five percent of those children have their asthma under proper control. That means three out of four kids living with asthma are likely to experience symptoms of respiratory distress, leading to increased emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

“We applaud our lawmakers for their leadership and for taking this important action which will better equip schools to handle asthma emergencies,” said Joel Africk, President and CEO of Respiratory Health Association. “This new law, which allows schools to stock asthma rescue medication, builds on existing school policies to create a safer environment for all. We look forward to working with all stakeholders on the implementation of this law.”

“Asthma attacks can occur without warning and because of this, children with asthma should always have access to asthma rescue medication (Albuterol). Asthma rescue medication administration in a school setting allows kids to remain in the classroom and avoids costly emergency room visits. Without this medication, the attack often worsens and can become life-threatening,” said Craig E. Batterman, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Southern Illinois University Medicine.

Asthma causes an estimated 300,000 missed schools days per year in Illinois, which in turn leads to days of work missed by adult caregivers. Asthma-related annual health care costs in Illinois are projected to reach $1.9 billion by 2020.

“Illinois has made great strides in helping children with asthma attend school without the fear that their schools will be unprepared for an inevitable asthma attack,” said State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). “SB 3015 will help children even more by allowing asthma medication to be kept at the school, similar to EpiPens.”

“Thankfully, administering albuterol has minimal side effects.  By comparison, the consequences of not treating or delaying treatment of a child experiencing respiratory distress can be dangerous. SB 3015 will give schools the ability to quickly respond to asthma emergencies and work with students and families on proper asthma management at school,” said Amy Zimmerman, a Program Director at Legal Council for Health Justice.

Respiratory Health Association and Legal Council for Health Justice worked together to pursue a stock asthma rescue medication policy in Illinois. They published an issue brief assessing the fit and feasibility of stock asthma rescue medication in Illinois schools, which is available for download on Respiratory Health Association’s website resphealth.org.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906. The organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful policies and programs to improve the lives of those living with asthma.  We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for asthma prevention and management policies and provide asthma management programs for underserved communities. For more information, visit www.resphealth.org

Legal Council for Health Justice conducts education, outreach, and advocacy to address discrimination, disadvantage, and disparities in health, wealth, and well-being across the lifespan of vulnerable populations. Through our award winning medical-legal partnerships we target people impacted by chronic, disabling and stigmatizing health and social conditions to empower them to lead fulfilling lives, reach their self-determined goals, and secure and plan their futures. For more information visit www.legalcouncil.org.

First Air Pollution Action Day of 2018 Called

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 25, 2018

CONTACT:
Michele Reyes
Coordinator, Marketing and Communications
Respiratory Health Association
Desk: (312) 628-0226

 

First Air Pollution Action Day of 2018 Called

CHICAGO – Respiratory Health Association is alerting the public that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issued an Air Pollution Action Day alert to individuals in the Chicago Metropolitan area for Saturday. As a result of the high temperatures and low wind speeds, air pollution levels, specifically ground-level ozone, are expected to reach the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” category. This is the first Action Day issued for 2018. Due to weather conditions, ozone smog levels may remain high for several days over the holiday weekend.

An Air Pollution Action Day is declared when weather conditions are such that widespread ozone or fine particulate matter (PM2.5) levels are expected to be at or above the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” category on the U.S. EPA’s Air Quality Index for multiple days. Saturday, May 26th is expected to meet these criteria, therefore, an Air Pollution Action Day is being declared. At increased levels, ground-level ozone poses a potential health hazard to sensitive populations, especially individuals with respiratory or pulmonary conditions as well as active children and adults. Those individuals should take special precautions and follow their physician prescribed regimen. Residents should keep cool and limit physical activity when air pollution levels are high.

Employers and residents of the Chicago metropolitan area are asked to follow “Green Actions” (as described below) to reduce contributions to air pollution. These groups are also encouraged to share air quality forecasts and Action Day alerts with colleagues, friends and family to help protect their health.

  • Take public transit, Rideshare, walk or bike.
  • If driving, avoid idling, consolidate errands and run them after 7 p.m. when sunlight is not as strong.
  • Avoid using gasoline-powered equipment on Air Pollution Action Days.
  • Switch to energy efficient light bulbs.
  • Set your thermostat up 2 degrees.
  • Turn off and unplug electronics not in use.
  • Use environmentally-friendly household and cleaning products.
  • Use a charcoal chimney or gas grill instead of lighter fluid when grilling.
  • Do not burn leaves and other yard waste.
  • Sign-up to receive air quality forecasts via email at enviroflash.info!

Up-to-date information on daily air quality for the Chicagoland area can be found at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s www.airnow.gov webpage.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in metropolitan Chicago since 1906. Today, the association addresses asthma, COPD, lung cancer, tobacco control and air quality with a comprehensive approach involving research, education and advocacy activities. For more information, visit www.resphealth.org.