Policy Update

First in Science: One-Third of Americans Exposed to Poor Air Quality in 2018

Region

National

NCEL Point of Contact

Mara Herman
Environmental Health Manager

Contact
New Report Shows Decline in Air Quality Across the Country

Top Line: In 2018, 108 million Americans lived in areas that experienced more than 100 days, with degraded air quality, which is the equivalent to over three months of the year.

The Study: The report used data from existing air quality monitors for particulate matter and ozone levels as these two pollutants have the largest impacts on public health. Health risks include premature death, damage to respiratory and cardiovascular systems, decreased fertility, and increased cancer risk. The results showed an increase in air pollution compared to 2016 levels. In 2016 there were 73 million Americans living in areas with poor air quality compared to 2018’s 108 million. 

Takeaways: Air pollution will continue to worsen with climate change. The report highlights three recommendations that federal, state, and local governments can do to improve air quality.

  • Reduce transportation emissions (the largest source of greenhouse gases) by expanding access to electric vehicles, exploring regional programs for capping transportation emissions, and encouraging active forms of transportation such as biking and walking.
  • Transition to clean energy sources.
  • Strengthen and enforce air quality standards.

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