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Heat Advisory: Protecting Health on a Warming Planet
by Dr. Alan Lockwood

Drawing on peer-reviewed scientific and medical research, Dr. Lockwood meticulously details the symptoms of climate change and their medical side effects.

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Health Impacts

Air pollution is a general term for a variety of substances and gases in our air that pose risks to health. Pollutants and irritants include ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), toxic substances such as mercury, and some naturally occurring substances such as pollen. Exposure to the many pollutants in the air can have a range of adverse health effects, from shortness of breath and coughing to heart attacks and lung cancer.

While air pollution adversely affects the entire U.S. population, children, the elderly, and people suffering from chronic illness are particularly vulnerable. Compared to adults, children spend more time out of doors, breathe more rapidly, and inhale more pollutants per bound of body weight. The elderly are more susceptible to air pollution because their immune systems are weakened by age and they often suffer from one or more chronic illnesses. Poor and minority communities also are disproportionately affected by air pollution because they often are situated closer to pollution sources.

In the United States, air pollution is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under authority granted by Congress in the Clean Air Act. EPA sets health-based standards for six of the most common pollutants, known as criteria pollutants. Despite significant progress in air quality improvement, approximately 150 million people across the United States continue to live in areas with unhealthful levels of air pollution in the form of either ozone or particle pollution.

Page Updated February 16, 2017

Action Alerts

  • Reject FERC Nominees!

    Ask your U.S. senators to reject the nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the "federal regulator that almost never says no."

  • Tell Congress—defend the Clean Air Act against Big Oil!

    President Trump, his new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, and some in Congress are attempting to block or weaken clean air and climate protections like the Clean Power Plan. Tell your member of Congress to support full implementation of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Power Plan.

More action alerts»

Resources

  • PSR Expert Testimony on Coal Ash

    Chesapeake PSR is suing the EPA over a proposed delay in a rule that slashes coal ash waste discharges into rivers and streams. PSR National Environment & Health Director Barbara Gottlieb gave expert testimony on the health impacts of coal ash disposal. Read more »

  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Fact Sheet

    RGGI has significantly reduced air pollution from fossil fuel power plants, improving the health of people living in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. Read more »

  • Congressional Review Act Handout

    Congress is poised to use the CRA to dismantle Clean Air and Clean Water protections. CRA allows Congress by majority vote in both chambers (with limited debate and no opportunity for a filibuster) to void recently issued rules-resulting in communities losing dozens of health, safety and environmental protections. Read more »

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