Air pollution

Traffic jam in New York City

What is air pollution?

Air pollution is a mix of natural and manmade substances found in the air.  You can be exposed to air pollution both indoors and outdoors.

Outdoor air pollution

This type of pollution takes place in the natural environment and includes:

Indoor air pollution 

This type of pollution involves exposure to particulates, carbon oxides and other substances found in air or dust inside buildings and includes:

  • Gases (carbon monoxide, radon)
  • Chemicals found in household and personal care products
  • Building materials (asbestosformaldehyde, lead)
  • Allergens (cockroach and mouse droppings)
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Mold and pollen

What health problems are related to air pollution?

Air pollution is related to respiratory conditions (like asthma or lung disease), heart disease, preterm birth or other pregnancy-related problems and even death.

How can I reduce my exposure to air pollution?

Make sure your home and work space are well-ventilated and cleaned regularly to prevent buildup of dust and mold.  Remove any pollutants or irritants like aerosols or strong cleaning supplies from spaces you frequent.

Check the Air Quality Index (AQI) to see how clean or dirty the air is, and don’t go outdoors if air quality reaches an unhealthy level.

Avoid driving in heavy traffic whenever possible. Stay away from secondhand smoke.

Is air pollution linked to climate change?

Yes, increasing temperatures due to climate change are directly linked to poor air quality. Severe storms can lead to an increase in plant growth and a subsequent explosion of pollens and molds. Severe wildfires can create smoke in the air as dense as any of the most polluted cities on Earth, even in places like California where strong laws protect the air we breathe.

Scientists say an increasing rise in ozone levels is also a concern.

This information is based an article about air pollution by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.