Recommendations for Action

From individuals to federal lawmakers, everyone can play a part in cleaning up air pollution

We need action at every level to clean up air pollution and address climate change.

We Need Stronger Ozone Limits

EPA recently finalized several new measures to make our air safer to breathe. Now, join the American Lung Association in urging them to set a stronger ozone standard, too.

The Biden administration has made major progress on protecting public health and advancing environmental justice through their efforts to tackle the climate crisis and clean up the air. In “State of the Air” 2023, we called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to finalize a suite of lifesaving clean air measures. Many of those policy measures are now in place, and other critical protections are well underway.

  • DONE: Updated national particle pollution standards. EPA strengthened the annual fine particulate matter pollution standards from 12 µg/m3 to 9 µg/m3. While the standards aren’t as strong as what the Lung Association called for, they’ll still save lives and prevent significant health harms.
  • DONE: Rules to clean up methane and other air pollutants from the oil and gas industry. EPA finalized rules to address leaks of methane from the oil and gas production process, like drilling operations. This is a crucial climate measure and will also reduce emissions of dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This is especially important for people living near oil and gas sites, making this final rule an environmental justice victory as well as a climate victory. 
  • DONE: Stronger multi-pollutant standards for future cars. EPA finalized a rule that will make future light- and medium-duty vehicles cleaner. The rule will help get more zero-emission vehicles on the road and make new gasoline-powered cars less polluting too.
  • DONE: Stronger carbon pollution limits on future trucks and buses. EPA finalized a rule that will make future heavy-duty vehicles less polluting. The rule tightens emissions limits of the carbon pollution that drives climate change and will help drive a transition to zero-emission trucks and buses, a win for environmental justice.
  • IN PROGRESS: Implementing the largest-ever climate and clean energy investments passed in the Inflation Reduction Act. This landmark law is the largest action the U.S. has ever taken to tackle climate change. Investments in clean electricity, electric vehicles, zero-emission appliances, air quality monitoring, environmental justice and more are rolling out. 
  • IN PROGRESS: Addressing wildfires. The Biden Administration created a Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission, which released a report with recommendations for federal action to address the nation’s accelerated and climate-driven wildfire crisis. We’re pushing for many of those recommendations to be adopted.

We applaud this progress. Now, we call for President Biden and EPA to build on these successes with additional final rules to clean up air pollution, and on Congress to help ensure these protections are funded, implemented and enforced. Additional actions needed include:

  • EPA must set stronger national standards for ozone. The research shows that a standard of no higher than 60 parts per billion would protect health. Stronger standards would drive cleanup of polluting sources nationwide and enable families across the country to be better informed about when local air quality may put their health at risk. In 2023, EPA announced a major delay by essentially starting over in their work to update the standard. There is no time to waste in moving forward. Take action at
  • EPA must clean up power plant pollution. EPA must finalize rules to limit carbon emissions on coal and gas-fired power plants. These measures will help address climate change and provide important reductions in other pollutants at the same time. EPA must also finalize tighter limits on mercury and other toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants, and strengthen monitoring requirements to help ensure that cleanup happens quickly.*
  • Congress must defend the Clean Air Act and its protections and pass funding bills that adequately invest in EPA. There are partisan efforts underway to undermine federal clean air protections and the Clean Air Act itself. Congress must safeguard the Clean Air Act and the administration’s efforts to clean up deadly air pollution and climate pollution. Congress must also increase funding for EPA to set and enforce these lifesaving rules and to provide assistance to state, local and Tribal air agencies to monitor and clean up harmful air pollution.

*Note: Updates on these policy priorities have occurred since “State of the Air” was published. Learn more here.

Not only can states, territories and Tribes strengthen clean air protections, they are crucial to the success of EPA’s stronger standards, and they can reap the benefits of Inflation Reduction Act investments.

  • Implement EPA’s new clean air protections. EPA’s final rules require work from states, territories and Tribes to ensure their residents see the benefit of stronger air pollution standards. This includes cleaning up areas where the air violates the new particle pollution standards, writing plans to clean up carbon from the power sector and implementing the recently finalized limits on methane. 
  • Set a clean or renewable electricity standard or clean peak standard that phases out the use of coal, oil, methane gas (often called natural gas) and other combustion energy sources and replaces it with wind, solar, geothermal and tidal and other non-combustion forms of electricity. Do not allow for the increased use of biomass or municipal solid waste for electricity because of their contributions to dangerous air pollution. 
  • Prioritize deployment of clean energy production. In order to hit clean energy goals, it is imperative for states, territories and Tribes to prioritize major deployment of non-combustion clean power as well as battery energy storage. 
  • Leverage Inflation Reduction Act funding available to state, territorial and Tribal governments to reduce emissions, including reducing air pollution at ports, investing in zero-emission school buses, electrifying buildings, expanding electric vehicle infrastructure, and improving air quality monitoring. Ensure that environmental justice communities that have long borne the brunt of pollution impacts are prioritized for investment. 
  • States: Use Clean Air Act authority to adopt the California zero-emissions standards for cars and trucks. These include California’s Low-Emission Vehicle criteria pollutant and greenhouse gas regulations; Zero-Emission Vehicle regulations; and Advanced Clean Trucks regulations. 

Evelyn Mateos racks up around 1,000 miles each month driving between her home in Orange County, California and Las Vegas, where she lived for a few years until recently. 

“In Southern California, we’re built on cars. We drive pretty much everywhere,” she says. 

But a proposed high-speed electric train connecting Las Vegas and suburban San Bernardino County near Los Angeles would give people another option for traveling. Construction on the 218-mile Brightline West project is expected to start this year. 

The zero-emission system is projected to lower greenhouse gasses by more than 400,000 tons of CO2 each year and reduce annual vehicle miles traveled by more than 700 million, according to Brightline. Traveling at speeds of up to 200 miles an hour, the trains would be nearly twice as fast as driving. 

Mateos says she believes many people in Southern California care about reducing pollution from vehicles and that an alternative to driving or flying to Las Vegas would be appealing. 

“Not having to put those miles on your car and risk getting stuck in traffic could be exciting for Californians,” she says. “It could potentially get many cars off the road.” 

Evelyn Mateos
Orange County, CA 

Local governments have the power to help ensure that city and county operations are zero-emission and that residents have the ability to choose zero-emission forms of transportation and electricity. These actions must benefit the communities most impacted by unhealthy air.  

  • Adopt a climate action plan. Reduce city- and county-wide emissions by supporting walking, biking and transit and zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and ensuring that building and parking policies support these goals. Include measures to address the impacts of climate change on residents, including health impacts. Under the Inflation Reduction Act, municipalities can opt in to get federal planning grants to reduce climate pollution. Learn more.
  • Purchase zero-emission fleet vehicles. Commit to purchasing zero-emission garbage and recycling trucks, transit buses, school buses and other vehicles. Under the Inflation Reduction Act, there are tax credits for the purchase of new and used electric vehicles that are available through up-front direct pay, as opposed to in a tax filing. EPA also has a Clean School Bus Program that has provided several rounds of rebates and grant programs to eligible entities purchasing zero-emission school buses. Learn more.
  • Establish purchasing goals for renewable, non-combustion electricity. Power city and county operations with truly clean sources of electricity like wind, solar, geothermal or tidal. The Inflation Reduction Act also included direct-pay tax credits for the purchase of renewable energy. 

You can take action to protect yourself and your family from the dangers of air pollution. Regardless of its grade or ranking in this report, any community can experience days with unhealthy levels of air pollution. Some simple precautions will reduce your risk: 

  • Check daily air pollution forecasts in your area at The color-coded forecasts let you know when the air is unhealthy in your community. When the air is bad, move your exercise plans and other activities indoors. If you live in a fire-prone area, learn more about using N-95 masks and creating a clean room inside your home with our wildfire resources at  
  • Reduce your own contributions to air pollution. Prioritize walking, biking and clean public transit over diesel or gasoline-powered vehicles. Conserve electricity and purchase your power from clean, non-combustion sources if you can. When heating and cooling, adjusting your thermostat just one degree can save you money and reduce energy use. Don’t burn leaves or trash and avoid burning wood whenever possible. 
  • Consider taking advantage of tax incentives to reduce emissions from your home and vehicle. One of the best ways to reduce pollution is to switch from vehicles and appliances that burn fuel – like gasoline-powered cars and natural gas stoves and furnaces – to zero-emission versions that run on electricity. Under the Inflation Reduction Act passed in 2022, you may be able to get tax credits for buying a new or used electric vehicle or for upgrading your home with efficient, zero-emissions appliances like induction stoves or heat pumps. Learn more.
  • Show up at the local level. In addition to taking action with the Lung Association, you can advocate for air quality and climate policy change in your community. Get engaged with local policymakers and civic organizations. Learn about local advocacy opportunities. Show up at public hearings and meet with your local leaders to share why cleaning up air pollution and addressing climate change matters to you and your community. You are the best advocate for action in your community. 

Rohan Arora watched his father coughing at home and relying more on his inhaler. Smog and other air pollution he encountered while commuting to and working in Washington, D.C. aggravated his asthma to the point that sleeping became difficult. 

Seeing the toll that poor air quality took on his father inspired Arora to make environmental health and climate activism his passion. 

“When you see it in your own household, it becomes real,” Arora says. “It’s not something in the news, it’s not hypothetical – you see it happening in front of you.” 

Arora is the founder and executive director of The Community Check-Up, a national environmental health organization that empowers youth to be changemakers in their communities. He says grassroots efforts are instrumental in driving change and that young people can play a big role by discussing climate issues at home, attending town halls, and talking with local representatives. 

Schools can also help educate on environmental and climate topics, he says, by integrating them into the curriculum so that students gain the skills needed to understand the most pressing challenges and instill change. 

“Young people have a lot of energy,” Arora says, “and that’s what this movement really needs.” 

Rohan Arora
Executive Director of The Community Check-Up 

Did You Know?

  1. Nearly four in ten people in the U.S. live where the air they breathe earned an F in “State of the Air” 2024.
  2. More than 131 million people live in counties that received an F for either ozone or particle pollution in “State of the Air” 2024.
  3. Nearly 44 million people live in counties that got an F for all three air pollution measures in “State of the Air” 2024.
  4. Breathing ozone irritates the lungs, resulting in inflammation—as if your lungs had a bad sunburn.
  5. Breathing in particle pollution can increase the risk of lung cancer.
  6. Particle pollution can cause early death and heart attacks, strokes and emergency room visits.
  7. Particles in air pollution can be smaller than 1/30th the diameter of a human hair. When you inhale them, they are small enough to get past the body's natural defenses.
  8. Ozone and particle pollution are both linked to increased risk of premature birth and lower birth weight in newborns.
  9. If you live or work near a busy highway, traffic pollution may put you at greater risk of health harm.
  10. People who work or exercise outside face increased risk from the effects of air pollution.
  11. Millions of people are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, including children, older adults and people with lung diseases such as asthma and COPD.
  12. People of color and people with lower incomes are disproportionately affected by air pollution that puts them at higher risk for illness.
  13. Air pollution is a serious health threat. It can trigger asthma attacks, harm lung development in children, and even be deadly.
  14. You can protect yourself by checking the air quality forecast in your community and avoiding exercising or working outdoors when unhealthy air is expected.
  15. Climate change enhances conditions for ozone pollution to form and makes it harder clean up communities where ozone levels are high.
  16. Climate change increases the risk of wildfires whose smoke spreads dangerous particle pollution.
  17. Policymakers at every level of government must take steps to clean the air their constituents breathe.
  18. The nation has the Clean Air Act to thank for decades of improvements in air quality. This landmark law has successfully driven pollution reduction for over 50 years.
  19. Particle pollution exposure from wildfire smoke harms health in ways that range from mild irritation to serious illness and premature death.
  20. Recent updates to the Air Quality Index give the public more accurate information about the health risk from air pollution, and when to take measures to protect themselves on bad air days.
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Page last updated: June 7, 2024