Impacts on Your Health

Natural defenses protect our lungs from germs and large particles like dust and pollen. Air pollution harms lung tissue directly and bypasses or weakens those important defenses. Air pollution can make your eyes water, irritate your nose, mouth and throat, and make you cough and wheeze. But most important, it can worsen lung diseases like asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. It can even kill.

What can pollution do?

Different kinds of pollutants can hurt our bodies in different ways. However, some dangerous health effects come from the most common air pollutants. Here are a few:

  • Premature death,
  • Shortness of breath and chest pain,
  • Wheezing and coughing,
  • Increased risk of asthma attacks, and
  • Increased treatment or hospitalization of people with lung diseases, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Click here for more details on the harmful health effects of breathing air pollution.

Who is at risk?

Someone in every family is likely to be at risk from air pollution. Does someone you love belong to one of these vulnerable groups?

  • People with lung diseases, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema;
  • Children and teenagers;
  • People who work or exercise outdoors ;
  • Adults 65 years old and older;
  • People with a cardiovascular disease;
  • People with diabetes;
  • People with low incomes; and
  • "Responders" – otherwise healthy individuals who feel the impact of air pollution at lower levels of exposure than the average person.

Click here for more information about why some people face a more serious threat from air pollution.

Related Module

Health Effects of Ozone and Particle Pollution