Every human being has a right to breathe clean air, free of dangerous pollutants. Unfortunately, that’s not the case today. Every day, millions of Americans are exposed to unhealthy levels of common airborne pollutants like:

  • Fine particles
  • Ground-level ozone
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Lead
  • Carbon monoxide

Among the worst offenders are oil-based chemicals like benzene, which is found in gasoline. And while great strides have been made toward reducing pollution from power generation, the transportation sector remains heavily reliant on petroleum-based fuels.

Those at the greatest risk frequently live in less affluent communities, near major roadways or industrial facilities. The most vulnerable also include young children and people with asthma, as well as those who face socioeconomic barriers associated with poverty, ethnicity, and education.

To illustrate the disproportionate impact of airborne pollution on disadvantaged populations, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) offers a detailed assessment of communities that shoulder the greatest burden from poor air quality.

California is not alone. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution and climate change top the list of global health threats in 2019. That is because nine out of 10 people breathe unhealthy air, resulting in a death toll of seven million people each year.

According to the EPA, impacted communities suffer from higher rates of cancer and compromised immune systems, as well as neurological, reproductive, developmental, respiratory and other health problems.

The Takeaway

Scientists agree that time is running out to reduce emissions, which is why we must deploy renewable energy technologies, as well as public transportation, to cut down on pollution from cars and trucks.


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