Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Louisville: Lung Cancer Survivor Shares Story

New campaign calls on Louisville residents to take action against climate change, air pollution

A new initiative launched today, called Stand Up For Clean Air, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Clean Air Act and asks Louisville residents to pledge to take action on climate change and air pollution. The American Lung Association’s new effort also encourages everyone to share why clean air matters to them through the #MyCleanAirStory social media campaign.

This campaign will also help raise awareness about the health impacts of climate change and air pollution faced by Louisville residents, such as Stephen Tong, who lost a portion of both of his lungs due to lung cancer.

“Having a portion of both lungs removed I find it difficult to climb stairs, walk an extended distance or even participate in family sporting events. Being exposed in an air polluted environment becomes the same as having only partial lungs to inhale air. It starves our ability to acquire a major component of living, clean air,” said Tong. “We must drive the initiative for clean air and mandate that all private and public sectors operate to reduce the horrible effects of air pollution, for our sake, and for the livelihood of our children and grandchildren.”

Everyone is encouraged to share their personal experiences and concerns with air pollution and climate change on social media with a selfie, photo or video with the #MyCleanAirStory hashtag. Whether you love to bike or run, live near a power plant or highway, or your child experiences asthma symptoms on bad air quality days – we all have reasons why we want and need clean air.

“Raising awareness regarding climate change is vital. Whether we focus on the continuous rise in our sea levels or much stronger storm surges the negative impact as a result of climate change will prove to be catastrophic to society and our vast population in all locations of the world,” said Tong. “Climate change is a global health issue; often increasing our exposure to extreme temperatures causing respiratory and cardiovascular disease. It starts with everyone and each of us can make a significant difference, most importantly our first step will be to become aware of the impacts and what our role will be to collectively reduce its effects.”

The Clean Air Act, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is responsible for reducing air pollution in much of the nation and saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year. Despite this public health success, climate change poses new challenges to protecting the nation’s air quality because it makes air pollution worse, placing the health of Kentuckians at risk. In fact, the 2020 State of the Air Report highlighted the need for Louisville’s ongoing work to reduce ozone pollution.

“Air pollution is not just an issue for those with underlying health issues like asthma, breathing air pollution is harmful for everyone. But some groups do face an even higher risk – including pregnant women, babies, children, teens, older adults and many communities of color,” said Shannon Baker, advocacy director for the Lung Association. “Through Stand Up For Clean Air, we hope to elevate conversations around the health impacts of air pollution and climate change and motivate people to take action. The reality is that climate change is not only a future threat but is harming the health of Americans today.”

Climate change is worsening our air quality through increased levels of wildfire smoke, increased formation of ozone pollution, and more extreme storms and frequent flooding, which leave behind mold, polluted floodwater residue and other damage, exposing people to indoor air pollution as they clean up and repair homes. Many sources of climate pollution – power plants, oil and gas operations, and cars and trucks – also produce air pollution that is directly harmful to lung health.

Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, and can cause coughing and wheezing, heart attacks and stroke, developmental and reproductive harm, and lung cancer. Air pollution can even be deadly.

Learn more about climate change and lung health, as well as simple steps to make a difference, and critical opportunities to hold leaders accountable at

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
[email protected]

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