What Is Air Pollution?
Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the air that are detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole.
The Clean Air Act authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect public health by regulating the emissions of these harmful air pollutants. The NRDC has been a leading authority on this law since it was established in 1970.
What Causes Air Pollution?
“Most air pollution comes from energy use and production. Burning fossil fuels releases gases and chemicals into the air. And in an especially destructive feedback loop, air pollution not only contributes to climate change but is also exacerbated by it.
Air pollution in the form of carbon dioxide and methane raises the earth’s temperature.
Another type of air pollution is then worsened by that increased heat: Smog forms when the weather is warmer and there’s more ultraviolet radiation. Climate change also increases the production of allergenic air pollutants including mold (thanks to damp conditions caused by extreme weather and increased flooding) and pollen (due to a longer pollen season and more pollen production).
Effects of Air Pollution
While we’ve made progress over the last 40-plus years improving air quality in the U.S. thanks to the Clean Air Act, climate change will make it harder in the future to meet pollution standards, which are designed to protect health.
Actions You Can Take to Reduce Air Pollution
Follow these Tips Every Day to Reduce Pollution:
- Conserve energy – at home, at work, everywhere.
- Look for the ENERGY STAR label when buying home or office equipment.
- Carpool, use public transportation, bike, or walk whenever possible.
- Follow gasoline refueling instructions for efficient vapor recovery, being careful not to spill fuel and always tightening your gas cap securely.
- Consider purchasing portable gasoline containers labeled “spill-proof,” where available.
- Keep car, boat, and other engines properly tuned.
- Be sure your tires are properly inflated.
- Use environmentally safe paints and cleaning products whenever possible.
- Mulch or compost leaves and yard waste.
- Consider using gas logs instead of wood.
On Days when High Ozone Levels are Expected, Take these Extra Steps to Reduce Pollution:
- Choose a cleaner commute – share a ride to work or use public transportation.
- Combine errands and reduce trips. Walk to errands when possible.
- Avoid excessive idling of your automobile.
- Refuel your car in the evening when its cooler.
- Conserve electricity and set air conditioners no lower than 78 degrees.
- Defer lawn and gardening chores that use gasoline-powered equipment, or wait until evening.
On Days when High Particle Levels are Expected, Take these Extra Steps to Reduce Pollution:
- Reduce the number of trips you take in your car.
- Reduce or eliminate fireplace and wood stove use.
- Avoid burning leaves, trash, and other materials.
- Avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.