What is Air Pollution?

Defi-Air pollution, both indoors and outdoors, poses health risks to millions of Americans every day, contributing to asthma, emphysema, heart disease, and other potentially lethal conditions. Managing air pollution causes, and defending successful safeguards like the Clean Air Act, is critical to the human, economic, and environmental health of our communities.

America’s power plants are our biggest industrial polluters. Each year they pump more than two billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air. Carbon pollution is causing climate change that drives dangerous heat waves and worsening smog pollution, which causes asthma attacks and other serious respiratory illnesses. Thus climate change looms as one of our most serious public health threats; yet few people are aware of the many dangers posed by a warming planet. These include:

* Air Pollution: Warming temperatures worsen smog pollution, which triggers asthma attacks and permanently damages and reduces the function of children’s lungs. Higher smog levels even contribute to premature deaths.

* Heat-related Disease and Illness: As temperatures rise, so do deaths and illnesses related to heat stress, heatstroke, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease. * Infectious Disease: Climate change affects patterns of diseases such as dengue fever, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease. Increasing temperatures and rainfall have been associated with increased occurrence and transmission of insect-borne diseases like West Nile virus. Higher temperatures can lead to more rapid development of dangerous pathogens within insect carriers and allow these diseases to expand their range into new, once cooler, regions.

Approximately 173 million Americans in at least 28 states live in counties with mosquitoes that can carry dengue fever, a painful viral illness that has increased globally 30-fold in the last 50 years. * The potential health impacts are also expensive. In 2011, NRDC studied six types of climate change-related types of events in the U.S. between 2002 and 2009 — episodes of ozone air pollution, heat waves, hurricanes, outbreaks of infectious disease, river flooding, and wildfires. All are projected to increase in severity, frequency, or extent with climate change. We found that associated health costs exceeded $14 billion.

That included deaths, illnesses, and more than 760,000 visits to the doctor, hospital, emergency room or other health care facilities. (These health effects were described in a paper in the national journal Health Affairs, and can be accessedhere.) Find out how these serious climate-health threats impact your community >> Climate Change Threatens Health Climate change is one of the most serious public health threats facing the nation, but few people are aware of how it can affect them. Children, the elderly, and communities living in poverty are among the most vulnerable. Click on a state on the map for more information on climate-health threats, actions being taken to prepare communities, and what you can do.

Earlier this year, the Natural Resources Defense Council launched a powerful new ad to build public awareness of and support for tough, new safeguards against industrial carbon pollution from power plants and other clean air standards. Watch the video below and join us by telling the EPA that you support standards to reduce carbon pollution from new and existing power plants. (Under illnes)Gasping for Air: Toxic Pollutants Continue to Make Millions Sick and Shorten Lives Forty years of Clean Air Act programs have brought steady and life-saving improvements to our air quality.

Despite this important progress, however, many fossil fuel power plants, boilers, and cement plants continue to treat our skies like sewers. From soot to toxic heavy metals, dirty coal and fossil fuel smoke stacks emit vast quantities of dangerous pollutants that are well known to cause disease and death. The total cost of these health impacts is more than $100 billion per year. Until stronger standards to reduce toxic emissions from coal and fossil fuel burning industries are implemented, harmful toxic chemicals will continue to be released into the air of our communities, threatening public health. last revised 7/20/2011.

Air Pollution: Smog, Smoke and Pollen.

National Map: Air Pollution Vulnerability.

Rising temperatures can make smog pollution worse and increase the number of “bad air days” when it’s hard to breathe. This puts many of us at risk for irritated eyes, noses, and lungs — but it is particularly dangerous for people with respiratory diseases like asthma. As the climate changes, unhealthy air pollution will get worse.

Here’s how: Ozone smog forms when pollution from vehicles, factories, and other sources reacts with sunlight and heat. Increasing temperatures speed this process and result in more smog. Added to the mix are ragweed and other allergens in the air — which are expected to worsen as rising carbon dioxide levels cause plants to produce more pollen. Also, as dry areas get dryer, wildfire risks go up and smoke from burning landscapes intensifies poor air quality.

iStockCarbon pollution from vehicles, power plants and other sources drives climate change, increasing ozone smog, allergens, and sending health-harming particles and toxics into the air. Exposure to increased smog, pollen pollution, and wildfire smoke puts a wide range of people at risk for irritated eyes, throats and lung damage (the U.S. EPA likened breathing ozone to getting a sunburn on your lungs). This includes outdoor workers, children, the elderly, and those who exercise outside.

But people with asthma, allergies, and other respiratory diseases face the most serious threats, since exposure to increased pollution heightens sensitivity to allergens, impairs lungs, triggers asthma attacks, sends people to the hospital, and even results in death. In 2010, the American Lung Association estimated that about 23 million Americans suffered from asthma. PROTECT YOUR FAMILY FROM AIR POLLUTION.

* Check news reports on the radio, TV, or online for pollen reports or daily air quality conditions. Or visit EPA’s Air Now website for air quality info. * If you or someone in your family has allergies or asthma, on days when pollen or ozone smog levels are high, minimize outdoor activity and keep your windows closed. * Shower after spending time outdoors to wash off pollen that may have collected on your skin or hair.

* Wash bedding and vacuum frequently to remove pollen that may settle in sheets and carpets. Communities must take steps to improve air quality, but everyone should know the risks that climate change poses and learn how to best protect themselves when bad air days get worse. Eleven states and various local governments have developed preparedness measures to address the air quality impacts associated with climate change. The most frequent recommendation is developing or strengthening statewide air monitoring programs; gathering information is often the first step towards preparing for climate change related threats.

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