Dusty old sofas, classroom pets that shed, diesel fumes from ships and port-bound trucks: These are some of the triggers of childhood asthma that a Long Beach coalition wants to eliminate.
On Tuesday, the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma got a boost in efforts to ease the country's most common chronic childhood disease.
The alliance is among a dozen organizations around the state to benefit from the launch of Community Action to Fight Asthma, a three-year, $12-million program funded by the California Endowment, a private health foundation.
The organizations were chosen for funding after endowment officials examined the 2001 California Health Interview Survey, the state's first study breaking down public health data for each county.
"The survey helps the endowment craft its interventions and begin to intervene in solving this problem," said Robert K. Ross, president of the Woodland Hills-based California Endowment.
"We can focus our efforts better and better on those communities that really need our help."
The survey, a collaboration by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, the California Department of Health Services and the Public Health Institute, drew its findings from telephone interviews with more than 55,000 households.
The survey data show an estimated 3 million Californians suffer from asthma symptoms at least once a year, with about 667,000 of those between age 6 and 17.
About 7.6% of Los Angeles County residents reported asthma symptoms during the past year, lower than the state average of 8.8%, the survey found.
The Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma targets its efforts in the city ZIP Code with the highest prevalence of asthma: 90813, the area around the port.
Its members canvass homes, schools, churches and playgrounds around the harbor for asthma triggers and urge their removal.
The group will receive $1 million over three years from the endowment, as will the other groups in the initiative, including the Central/South-Central Los Angeles Asthma Collaborative.
"We have all the medications in the world to give to these children," said Elisa Nicholas, the Long Beach project director.
"But if they live, learn and play in an area with environmental triggers, their asthma will not be controlled."
Parents of children with asthma attended a ceremony at a shopping center near USC on Tuesday to announce the grants.
Maria Rodriguez of Los Angeles brought along her son, Christopher, celebrating his third birthday. As he colored pictures of such asthma triggers as dust mites and grass, Rodriguez said she feels powerless when she tries to eliminate everything that might aggravate his condition.
"I can only do so much with medicine to help him deal with the disease," Rodriguez, 38, said in Spanish.
"I feel so helpless and frightened when he can't breathe because he became excited or was playing in the grass.
"Anything anyone can do that helps me worry less about my son when he is away from home would be wonderful."