Clean Air Clean Air
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Summer is fast approaching, and many people are getting ready to embrace the great outdoors. Although many people put lots of thought into the perfect swimsuit or planning a great picnic, not many take into account the quality of the air they breathe.

We all know that oxygen is vital to sustaining life; therefore, breathing clean, oxygen-rich air is critical to our health. Finding ways to reduce air pollutants has become increasingly challenging.

The Clean Air Act, instituted in 1970 and rewritten in 1990, was designed to focus attention on air pollution’s harmful effects on the nation’s health. Also in 1970, Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is responsible for implementing a variety of Clean Air Act programs to reduce air pollution nationwide.

May is Clean Air Month; let’s take a look at how we can all breathe a healthier dose of air this month and all year ’round.

• What is Air Pollution?

• How Air Pollution Affects Our Health

• What Can I Do to Protect My Health?

• Ways to Reduce Air Pollution and Have Cleaner Air

What is Air Pollution?
Air pollution is caused by undesirable substances that enter the earth’s atmosphere. It has become a big problem in today’s society–especially in larger cities.

Air pollution can come from a variety of sources such as

• forest fires

• ultra fine dust particles

• volcanoes

In addition, major types of air pollution include the following:

• Gaseous pollutants

• The Greenhouse Effect

• Acid rain

• Damage to the ozone

• Particulate matter

• Climatic effects

How Air Pollution Affects Our Health

Many studies have shown links between pollution and health effects. For example, increases in air pollution have been linked to decreases in lung function and increases in heart attacks. While overall quality has improved in the last 20 years, urban areas are still a concern.

Your level of risk depends on several factors which include

• the amount of pollution in the air and

• your overall health.

Moreover, people are exposed to pollutants in other ways such as eating food products contaminated by air toxins that have been deposited where they grow or drinking water that is contaminated by air pollutants.

According to the Clean Air Act, the effects of air pollutants can affect you directly. For example, pollutants can

• make your eyes and nose burn, irritating your throat, and making breathing difficult.

• trigger your asthma.

• aggravate health problems for the elderly and others with heart or respiratory diseases.

What Can I Do to Protect My Health?
Protecting your health starts with you. Take an active approach to protecting your health by engaging in some positive key behaviors. To get started, you can

• Find out how clean or polluted your air is according to which state you live in, determine any health concerns, and take action if necessary.

• Remove and avoid asthma triggers. If you have other respiratory illnesses, contact your local health care provider for ways to protect yourself while outdoors.

• Minimize your sun exposure. Find out about current forecasts of UV where you live.

Ways to Help Reduce Air Pollution and Have Cleaner Air
Everyday we can make conscious decisions that will help protect the environment-particularly the air we breathe. To help reduce air pollution and have cleaner air, try doing the following:

• Read and understand the roles and responsibilities of the Clean Air Act.

• Buy Energy Star products such as energy efficient lighting appliances and choose efficient, low polluting models of vehicles.

• Drive sensibly by planning trips to save gasoline and reduce air pollution. It is also a good idea to join a carpool or vanpool to get to work and use public transportation whenever possible.

• After putting fuel in your vehicle, be sure to replace the gas cap tightly. This simple act helps to reduce gasoline fumes released into the air.