Medical Moment: Air pollution health risks you should know about

Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 8:08 PM EST
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According to experts, air pollution is now the biggest environmental risk for early death. Studies show air pollution can also affect mental health, productivity, and even stock market performance.

Air pollution isn’t just an ugly sight. It’s responsible for more than six million premature deaths each year.

“That is how the fossil fuel industry works. They exploit people so that they can make a profit,” said Isha Clarke of Youth vs. Apocalypse.

Children, the elderly, minorities, and low-income communities are most vulnerable to environmental health effects. A recent study found children who are exposed to air pollution are more likely to contract community-acquired pneumonia and be hospitalized for longer.

A study done in 2020 linked wildfire smoke with more COVID-19 cases and deaths. Other research has shown air pollution may increase the risk of lung cancer, asthma, and emphysema. It’s also been linked to cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, and other cancers.

“Youth are the ones who have been really living with the pollution in the air, the droughts, the wildfires,” said Aniya Butler, also of Youth vs. Apocalypse.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA works with state, local, and tribal governments to reduce air pollution.

Some simple ways you can help include carpooling or biking to work, conserving energy when possible, using environmentally safe paints, and purchasing appliances or equipment with an energy star label.

Small steps that can add up.

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