We all need clean air to be healthy and well. A major threat to health worldwide, poor air quality causes 1 out of every 9 deaths. Although air quality in the United States has improved significantly over the last several decades, it remains an important quality of life concern, particularly for low income and communities of color. Children and people with chronic respiratory disease are particularly vulnerable to negative health impacts of poor air quality.
In any given community there may be multiple causes of poor outdoor air quality, including natural factors like topography and weather, and human sources of air pollution like vehicle emissions, burning of firewood and industrial pollution. On the local level, air quality may differ significantly between neighborhoods - with poorer air quality in many lower income neighborhoods which are more likely to be close to major roadways and industrial polluters. Indoor air quality is also a major issue, often arising from poor ventilation, smoking and other factors.
Reducing air pollution benefits human health and ecological health. Changes to transportation systems, economic systems and industrial practices can improve air quality at scale. At local levels, communities can expand tree canopies and green space, create smoke-free and exhaust-free areas, and establish community benefit agreements and local air quality monitoring programs to improve air quality.