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Flags Fly May 2 to Observe World Asthma Day, Signal Air Quality

May 1, 2006

MERCED - UC Merced is cooperating with the Merced/Mariposa
County Asthma Coalition to help keep the campus and the community
informed about the quality of the air they breathe. A color-coded
flag will fly at the campus entrance each day to alert passersby
whether or not the air is considered healthy for them to breathe.
An air quality flag will be raised for the first time tomorrow, May
2, as the campus observes World Asthma Day. Members of the press
and public are invited to the flag-raising at 10:30 a.m.

“UC Merced is one of the first universities to implement the air
quality flag program,” said Greg Spurgeon, who administers health
programs on campus. “Considering our established commitment to
personal and environmental health, it’s a fitting service to
provide to students, faculty, staff and the community around us.”

Students, faculty and staff from UC Merced will be present at
the flag-raising tomorrow. Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey is
expected to raise the first air quality flag along with UC Merced
students who are affected by asthma or other respiratory issues.

The flags, colored green, yellow, orange and red, correspond to
the colors of the Air Quality Index (AQI) and advise the campus and
community what air quality has been forecasted for the day. A green
flag indicates that the air quality is “good,” yellow indicates
“moderate,” orange is “unhealthy for sensitive groups” and red is “unhealthy.”

Sensitive groups might include people with asthma or other
respiratory illnesses, said Spurgeon. Officials on campus will know
which flag to fly through e-mail notification of the air quality
forecast for the day from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution
Control District.

In addition to the flags, the asthma coalition provides
educational materials about air quality through several of UC
Merced’s Student Affairs offices. Brochures are available at the
Students First Center, the Recreation Office, and the Health and
Wellness Office.

“It’s important for UC Merced to serve as a leader in the
Valley, and air quality is one of the biggest environmental health
and economic issues we have in this area,” said Mary-Michal Rawling
of the Merced/Mariposa County Asthma Coalition. “By implementing
the flag program, UC Merced is supporting the message being sent by
local schools that also participate urging awareness and action on
air quality issues.”

Community members can also check the air quality flags at 98
elementary and secondary schools in Merced County, as well as at
Mercy Hospital and the Environmental Health Department. Merced
College also plans to commence flying the flags. The air quality
flag program was started by the Merced/Mariposa County Asthma
Coalition in Merced County in 2004 and can now be found throughout
the Valley, including schools in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera,
Merced, Mariposa, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare counties.

UC Merced opened September 5, 2005 as the 10th campus in the
University of California system and the first American research
university to open in the 21st century. The campus significantly
expands access to the UC system for students throughout the state,
with a special mission to increase college-going rates among
students in the San Joaquin Valley. It also serves as a major base
of advanced research and as a stimulus to economic growth and
diversification throughout the region. Situated near Yosemite
National Park, the university is expected to grow rapidly, topping
out at approximately 25,000 students within 30 years.

World Asthma Day is an annual event organized by the Global
Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to improve asthma awareness and care
around the world. World Asthma Day 2006, organized around the theme
“The Unmet Needs of Asthma.” For more information about World
Asthma Day and the Global Initiative for Asthma, visit

The Merced/Mariposa County Asthma Coalition is a community-based
health organization whose mission is to: Control asthma through
awareness and education. The coalition was formed in 1997 by a
group of local healthcare providers as a grassroots organization
that has grown in recent years. Besides the air quality flag
program the coalition also provides direct services to asthma
patients and the Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools program to
reduce indoor environmental asthma triggers in classrooms.
Coalition meetings are held the second Tuesday of the month and are
open to the public. For more information or to make a donation
contact the coalition office at 384-6759.