Air Pollution Health Impacts
Around the world, only 1 in 10 people breathe healthy air. And while air pollution may often be invisible, the toll it takes on our health certainly is not.
“I fight for clean air, because I want all children across the U.K., no matter where they live to grow up healthily and happy. Air pollution has been shown to result in stunted lung growth in children, cause cancer, diabetes, respiratory illnesses and has even been linked to mental health issues in teenagers. That is just wrong. Breathing is the most essential for all of us, but in our current set-up with a high reliance on cars and enjoying comforting but often unnecessary wood burning, the air millions of us breathe – is not actually safe to breathe."
EDF launches “Reversing Childhood Asthma” education campaign
EDF Global Clean Air initiative launched a new US education campaign aimed at raising awareness of the links between childhood asthma and traffic pollution. The animated video demonstrates how invisible pollutants like Nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (soot) travel from a diesel truck’s tailpipe into a child’s lungs, and explains unequal exposure to air pollution means it’s a bigger problem in some communities more than others. In the US, Black children have double the rates of childhood asthma than white children. And of course, reducing traffic pollution also helps to fight climate change.
You can help by contacting your local, state air quality regulators, public health leaders and transportation planners, nudging them to talk about this problem and work together to develop local solutions to traffic pollution. By raising awareness of air pollution hotspots and related childhood asthma rates, local leaders can work together to implement solutions like infrastructure for electric vehicles, dedicated lanes for bicycles and pedestrians, anti-idling ordinances, and more.
If you live in the US, find a local group of clean air advocates and join them. For example, Moms Clean Air Force, a national group of more than a million parents, organizes communities to protect clean air and our kids’ health in 20 states.
More than 6 million people are estimated to die each year from heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and respiratory diseases that result from exposure to air pollution. That’s more than the deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
Research suggests that long-term exposure to some types of pollution increases the risk of emphysema even more than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. And recent studies show air pollution can impact mental health, worker productivity and even stock market performance.
Children, the elderly and people with existing diseases are even more susceptible to harm from breathing unhealthy air. Low-wealth communities and communities of color often experience higher exposure to air pollution and bear a greater burden of the health and economic impacts.
Your postal code can impact your health
A recent EDF study saw this phenomena first hand in the Houston area. Many of the communities that are plagued by high pollution levels are also home to people of color, individuals facing chronic illnesses and residents who struggle financially.
Clusters of metal recyclers and concrete processing plants occupy parts of the city’s Fifth Ward, where our study found NO2 levels 48% higher than the rest of the city. More than 90% of the residents of Fifth Ward are people of color, and 40% live below the federal poverty line. They face higher rates of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), coronary heart disease and stroke. Life expectancy is nearly a decade lower than the rest of the region (69 years compared to 78 years).
Residents of River Oaks, by contrast, have no major industrial sources in their community and enjoy lower levels of pollution. Its largely white population is one of the wealthiest in the area, and its residents have less asthma, COPD and fewer strokes than the area average. They also live longer (85 years) than their regional counterparts.
Learn more about EDF’s clean air work in Houston, Texas including our partners, research methodology and advocacy efforts.
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