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The state Health Department will conduct two surveys in Buffalo and Erie County this fall to study childhood asthma, Gov. Pataki reports.

"Breathe Easy in Erie County" will try to determine how many children are affected by asthma and what environmental factors might be associated with it. The surveys will include nearly 20,000 children up to the age of 17.

Via questionnaires, the first study will estimate the number of children with asthma here. The second study will compare 250 children with asthma and 500 others without asthma.

Samples will be taken from homes to measure pollutants. Clinical tests will be conducted by the Center for Urban Research in Primary Care at the University at Buffalo.

The surveys, funded in part by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, are the first in a series of projects to provide information on childhood asthma. Asthma, a chronic irritation of the bronchial passages, often results in breathing difficulties. It affects about 4 percent of the population.

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