Clean Air and Your Health

bubbles-rectangleCalifornia is home to some of the nation's worst air pollution, with more than 90 percent of residents living in areas with unhealthy air.
In some areas of the state, air pollution reaches unhealthy levels on more than 100 days out of the year. The most common and challenging air pollutants, ozone (smog) and particulate matter (PM2.5) contribute to the onset and exacerbation of lung diseases, significant and permanent reductions in the development of children's lungs, as well as hospitalizations and premature deaths.

According to the California Air Resources Board, current levels of air pollution annually contribute to:

  • 9,200 premature deaths each year

  • Nearly 10,000 hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases

  • 22,000 cases of acute bronchitis and 280,000 cases of asthma and lower respiratory symptoms

  • Millions of school and work days lost due to respiratory conditions 

The Facts

  • California's geography, climate, and large and growing population are conducive to high levels of air pollution. The warm, sunny climate helps in the formation of ozone (smog) pollution, and the valleys and mountains in the central and eastern portions of the state can trap pollution close to the ground where it can linger for days on end and impact health.

  • Air pollution in California is primarily driven by high emissions from transportation sources, such as passenger vehicles and diesel engines. Busy ports, oil refineries, power plants, and residential wood burning in the winter also play a major role in unhealthy air in our state.

  • Busy highways are high-risk zones. Pollution from heavy highway traffic contributes to higher risks for heart attak, allergies, premature births, and the deaths of infants around the time they are born.

  • Long term exposure to air pollution - especially from highway traffic - harms women, even while in their 50s. Exposure to particle pollution appears to increase women's risk of lower lung function, developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and dying prematurely.

  • Air pollution is a serious health threat, especially to those who have asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.  

  • Children, the elderly, people living with lung disease, and those who live in low income communities also are part of the vulnerable populations affected by air pollution.

  • Truck drivers, dock workers, and railroad workers may face higher risk of death from lung cancer and COPD from breathing diesel emissions on the job.

For more in-depth information about air pollution in your area, please read the American Lung Association in California State of the Air Report 2011 >> 

For additional resources about clean air and pollution, please visit the websites listed below.

Additional Resources

California Air Resources Board

United States Environmental Protection Agency