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Climate Change Makes Me Sick: Air Quality


Spread the knowledge! Please feel free to share, re-post and print our e-cards. Click the images for larger, printable versions.

Below, you will find detailed information, resources, and opportunities to take climate-protective action.

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Climate change degrades air quality. How does that damage my health?

  • Ground-level ozone:
    • Harms your heart: Worsens angina, increases heart attacks, and increases the risk of potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmias.
    • Damages lungs: Reduces lung function, causes permanent lung tissue damage, increases hospital visits and raises the risk of premature death. It can also cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
    • Aggravates or causes asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Frequency of asthma attacks can rise due to exposure.

"Current levels of ground-level ozone have been estimated to be responsible for tens of thousands of hospital and emergency room visits, millions of cases of acute respiratory symptoms and school absences, and thousands of premature deaths each year in the United States."

-U.S. Global Change Research Program (see below)


Climate change also increases wildfires and dust storms, greatly increasing levels of particulate matter, with potentially severe implications for health.

Wildfires have become more severe in several parts of the U.S. as temperatures rise. They are a major source of particulate matter (fine, even microscopic particles of dust and soot), which is a serious airborne health threat. Particulate matter:

  • Harms your heart: Fine particulates can trigger heart attacks and contribute to congestive heart failure (impairing the heart's ability to pump blood).

  • Even brief, passing increases in particulate matter are clearly linked to potentially fatal events like acute stroke and cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Harms your lungs: Particulates are associated with lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

  • Increases asthma: Particulate exposure can exacerbate asthma and even cause new cases. Asthma affects millions of Americans. It can be serious, even life-threatening, and there is no cure.
Climate change-induced droughts and dust storms also contribute to particulate matter. They also increase the transmission of dust-borne pathogens, like those that cause Coccidioidomycosis, or "Valley Fever."
  • Valley Fever symptoms are flu-like, but if the infection persists, it may cause chronic pneumonia; symptoms can last for years.
  • Dust storms extend the geographic range of this illness, putting more people at risk.

Ozone and particulate matter together contribute to the four leading causes of death in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer, diseases of the respiratory system, and stroke.

What can I do to fight climate change and protect air quality?

  • Spread the knowledge by sharing our postcards! Facebook Twitter @psrnational
  • Join PSR's "Clean Energy Saves Lives" campaign

    • Each month you'll take one simple step to promote clean renewables and energy efficiency.

  • Climate change is accelerated by burning fossil fuels. In order to slow climate change and protect air quality, we must replace fossil fuels with renewable energy and energy efficiency.

    • Advocate for the Clean Power Plan, our nation's broadest, most far-reaching proposed policy to speed the transition to solar energy, wind power, and other renewable forms of energy. 

    • While the Clean Power Plan is under judicial review, support state-based legislation for renewables and efficiency.

  • Share this information with your governor via Twitter or Facebook.

  • You can make personal health decisions based on current ozone and particulate matter concentrations by consulting the EPA's Enviroflash web site.

  • Resources:

    • American Lung Association (ALA). State of the Air 2016

      The ALA's recent report details the air quality in cities and counties across the U.S. This report is a great resource for knowing the air quality where you live.

Take a look at our previous postcards:


Agriculture

Water-Borne Illness

Vector-Borne Disease

Extreme Weather

Heat


Insect-Borne Diseases


Allergies