Fact Sheet

Ambient (Outdoor) Air Pollution

Key facts:

  • Air pollution poses health risks to both humans and animals
  • Air pollution can negatively impact the Earth’s climate
  • Some factors that contribute to air pollution are regulated by the EPA– others are not
  • Air pollution exists in both cities and rural areas

Health Risks

Air pollution poses a threat to any living, breathing thing. Humans and animals alike can both suffer from the adverse health effects caused by low air quality. Some health effects that air pollution can cause are stroke, heart disease lung cancer, and respiratory diseases like asthma (World Health Organization, 2018). Hight air pollution rates are even linked to higher mortality rates.

Effect on Climate

Earth’s climate has been increasingly warming. The issues surrounding climate change are serious, vast, and growing. One factor that contributes to climate change is air pollution. Certain air pollutants cause damage to the stratospheric ozone layer. Additionally, polluted air is a cause for heat getting trapped in our atmosphere, which also largely contributes to the issues with climate change that we face today.

Regulations

Thanks to the Clean Air Act (CAA), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to regulate air pollution by creating and enforcing policies that can help tackle this issue. For example, the emissions tests that cars have to do are thanks to the regulations set by the EPA. Car emissions have to meet the standards, otherwise they do not get approved. However, the EPA does not regulate all air pollutants—just six of them. It also does not regulate indoor air quality, even though indoor pollution also poses health risks.

Pollution Hot Spots

While pollution rates can be significantly higher in densely populated urban cities, rural areas are not immune to this issue. Rural areas are often where factories and commercial farms operate, which are things that also contribute to higher rates of air pollution. According to the World Health Organization, “ambient (outdoor) air pollution was estimated to cause 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide in 2016” (World Health Organization, 2018).

References:

Ambient Air Pollution. World Health Organization. (2018, May 2). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ambient-(outdoor)-air-quality-and-health

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