Outdoor Air - National Asthma Public Policy Agenda

By encouraging policymakers to push for cleaner air, you can help all those suffering from asthma and other lung diseases.

Outdoor air pollution is particularly harmful to people with asthma. Asthma episodes are the most frequently reported health effect of polluted air. Despite progress, there are still cities where the air has too much dangerous pollution. Many people face higher exposure to pollution because of pollution sources near their residence or community, furthering health disparities. Stronger and/or targeted measures and investments will be needed to reduce exposure and pollution levels. 

Here are the three policy recommendations to reduce unhealthy outdoor air included in the National Asthma Public Policy Agenda.

Supporting Strategies:

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should adopt and implement strong national measures to reduce emissions of outdoor air pollutants that cause or worsen asthma and contribute to climate change.
  • EPA should adopt strong, science-based National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) that provide an adequate margin of safety for people with asthma and other more vulnerable populations.
  • EPA, states and local governments should ensure reductions in emissions, so air quality meets the NAAQS and so that more local, community-level sources of harmful pollution are addressed.
  • Federal, state and local agencies should use Clean Air Act tools and other steps to reduce air and climate pollution.

Supporting Strategies:

  • States and communities should minimize climate change by cleaning up major sources of carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases, including power plants, industrial facilities, cars, trucks, and other mobile sources. These policies must: 
    • Adopt science-based targets to prevent climate change above 1.5̊ C.
    • Maximize benefits to health by reducing carbon and methane pollution while reducing other dangerous emissions from polluting sources.
    • Ensure pollution is cleaned up in all communities, prioritizing those near polluting sources who have historically borne a disproportionate burden from air pollution. 
    • Leave the Clean Air Act fully in place. Any policy to address climate change must not weaken or delay the Clean Air Act or the authority that it gives EPA to reduce carbon emissions.

Supporting Strategies:

  • Implement environmental policies and best practices such as those outlined in CDC’s EXHALE Fact Sheet on Environmental Policies and Best Practices to Reduce Asthma Triggers.
  • Enhance publicly available air quality and health data through expanded monitoring networks to identify major sources of pollution burdens at the community level and inform targeted clean-up efforts in areas disproportionately impacted by asthma.
  • Reduce burdens caused by the fossil fuel industry through increased investment in energy efficiency and zero-emission alternatives for transportation, energy, home heating and cooking and other end uses to reduce asthma exacerbations.
  • Make public funding for transportation projects conditional on verifiable emission reductions and providing alternatives to driving by increasing pedestrian, bicycle and transit infrastructure and service.
  • Reduce harmful industrial and commercial practices that can exacerbate asthma, including agricultural burning, oil and gas flaring and broadcast applications of toxic pesticides.
  • Transition to zero-emission technologies for on- and off-road vehicles and equipment (cars, school buses, transit, trucks, port equipment), such as by purchasing zero-emission school buses to replace diesel buses.
  • Transition to zero-emission appliances for home heating and cooking to reduce and eliminate health impacts caused by combustion. 
  • Reduce emissions of pollutants from fossil fuel-fired power plants, especially sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, and transition to clean, non-combustion renewable electricity.
  • Prohibit or restrict outdoor wood boilers (outdoor hydronic heaters) and require cleanup or retirement of existing units.
  • Reduce agricultural sources of emissions, such as agricultural burning and diesel trucks, tractors, pumps and other equipment.
  • Adopt policies that reduce the use of motor vehicles, promote more compact and walkable community development, and encourage transit use, bicycling and walking that is safe and accessible to all communities, especially those that have been historically under-invested in and impacted negatively by transportation investments.
  • Adopt or expand mass transit and other shared mobility options that reduce emissions from motor vehicles and expand the benefits of healthier, less polluting forms of travel.
  • Adopt policies to transition to zero-emission vehicles, including investment in infrastructure and programs that ensure equitable distribution of the health benefits of zero-emission cars, school and transit buses, trucks, and other transportation sources.
  • Implement policies and programs to reduce exposure to air pollution in disproportionately burdened communities.

Page last updated: November 17, 2022

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