Skip to main content
Explore URMC

URMC Logo

menu
URMC / Encyclopedia / Content

Air Pollution

What is air pollution?

Air pollution is the presence of noxious substances in the air that we breathe. National agencies and organizations report the following:

  • Emissions of air pollution come from a variety of sources. Some of the sources would include industrial operations, stationary fuel combustion, highway vehicles, and non-road mobile sources (aircraft, trains, marine vessels).  Examples of such pollutants include sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, lead, ozone, and particulate matter.

  • According to the 2017 State of the Air report, although improved from a decade ago, more than 125 million Americans live in areas of unhealthy levels of ozone (smog) or particle pollution (soot). That is 4 out of 10 Americans. The most vulnerable people are infants, children, older adults, and those living with chronic lung disease such as asthma and COPD.

The health effects of air pollution are many. Air pollution levels are associated with increased respiratory health problems. This includes asthma. Healthy People 2020 identifies 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans. According to this organization, air pollution is linked to premature death, cancer, and long-term damage to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. 

Preventing air pollution is a major project of public health and environmental agencies.

Medical Reviewers:

  • Sather, Rita, RN
  • Perez, Eric, MD