Richmond County schools join asthma coalition

Community groups concerned about asthma and air quality in schools are pursuing a federal grant to do something about it.


The Richmond County Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night to join in a collective effort that includes the Medical College of Georgia, the East Central Health District and the CSRA Asthma Coalition. The coalition was formed last year after at least 10 children died of asthma in the Augusta area over a 20-month period. It is taking a broad range of actions, from helping distribute information to school nurses to potentially tracking children with asthma and ensuring they get referrals to allergists and other specialists, said Dr. Terrence Cook, chairman of the Richmond County Board of Health and an allergist.

The new initiative aims to apply for a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency under a proposal titled "Indoor Environments: Reducing Public Exposure to Indoor Air Pollutants." The EPA anticipates funding 25-35 cooperative projects ranging from $25,000 to $300,000 a year for up to four years. Proposals are due Sept. 14.

The Augusta group hopes to build on work already being done through a grant from the health district to MCG researchers Randall Baker and Kitty Hernlen, who earlier monitored air quality outside schools while buses were running. The MCG team is now working to get more counties and individual principals on board by surveying them about their school's indoor air quality needs, said Dr. Baker, chairman of the Department of Respiratory Therapy at MCG. The researchers are hoping in August to do air quality monitoring inside the buses, which could play into the grant process, he said.

The coalition could also look at things such as grass-mowing times and the use of cleaners in an effort to improve air quality in schools, he said. The key is for the schools and community to be involved and to voice their needs, Dr. Baker said.

"Having that partnership is essential," he said.

Staff Writer Greg Gelpi contributed to this report.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or


The Environmental Protection Agency has focused on improving indoor air quality since the 1980s, according to a grant proposal from the agency. Indoor air pollution may be two to five times higher than that of outside air, the proposal says.