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Don’t look now, but guess who tops the list of worst places for asthma in the U.S.?

PPL building in Allentown, Pa
Donna S. Fisher
For LehighValleyNews.com
A view of the Albertus Meyers (Eighth Street) Bridge, at left, and Route 145 MacArthur Road in Allentown, Pa., in January 2023.

  • Allentown was at the top of the list of 100 U.S. cities
  • Factors such as asthma occurrence, hospital visits and deaths are considered
  • The third week of September is considered the worst of peak asthma season

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Here’s a No. 1 ranking that won’t end up in any Lehigh Valley marketing materials: Allentown is the asthma capital of the United States.

That’s the distinction given in a report issued last week by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

The 2023 report identifies Allentown as the most challenging city in the nation to live with and manage asthma, a chronic respiratory condition marked by inflamed airways. It analyzes data from the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the U.S. The Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton MSA includes the greater Lehigh Valley.

The foundation issues the report in September because it is peak asthma season, with the third week of the month being the worst time.

The rankings are based on three main factors — asthma prevalence, asthma-related emergency room visits and asthma-related deaths.

Several risk factors affect asthma outcomes, according to the report. Among them: poverty, lack of health insurance, air pollution, pollen counts, smoking laws and lack of access to asthma specialists.

AAFA 2023 Asthma Capitals Report by LVNewsdotcom on Scribd

“Understanding where these risk factors are hitting folks the hardest can help us develop long-term solutions,” said Kenneth Mendez, CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, in a news release that accompanied the report.

Allentown’s appearance on the list comes on the heels of the Lehigh Valley making several air quality headlines.

In June, as smoke from Canadian wildfires pushed into the Mid-Atlantic region, the Lehigh Valley for a short period had the worst air quality in the nation, according to a partnership of government agencies and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

In August, government leaders in Northampton and Lehigh counties kicked off a new, regional effort to monitor air quality called Lehigh Valley Breathes. Using air monitors that collect data for a year, officials will ultimately provide recommendations to improve air quality.

September is the worst month for asthma sufferers because of several factors, according to the AAFA. They include peak season for ragweed pollen, kids going back to school, and the beginning of cold and flu season.

“... It is imperative that policymakers know that affordable and accessible health care, clean air, and economic stability are essential tools for helping people manage and control their asthma,” said Melanie Carver, chief mission officer for the AAFA.

Philadelphia, at No. 8, is the only other Pennsylvania city in the top 10 worst for asthma. Other Pennsylvania cities in the top 100 include Harrisburg at No. 16, Pittsburgh at No. 43 and Scranton at No. 74.

Here is the top 10 list, according to the AAFA:

  1. Allentown
  2. Lakeland, Fla.
  3. Charleston, S.C.
  4. Cleveland, Ohio
  5. Detroit, Mich.
  6. Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
  7. Richmond, Va.
  8. Philadelphia, Pa.
  9. Fresno, Calif.
  10. Rochester, N.Y.