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Everyone Deserves to Breathe Healthy Air

Photo: Courtesy of Zach Lucero

I’m a pediatrician based in Orange County, California, which frequently has poor air quality. I personally see the burden of air pollution reflected in the health of my young patients.


Afif El-Hasan M.D.

Volunteer Medical Spokesperson, American Lung Association


Too many children struggle to breathe due to polluted air. As a result, they are forced to make frequent visits to the emergency room or hospital. However, the health impacts of air pollution don’t just harm children, and bad air quality isn’t only an issue for California.

Air pollution is bad for everyone

Breathing air pollution harms everyone’s health. More than four in 10 Americans are living with unhealthy air. 

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Some communities are disproportionately impacted by air pollution, including low-income and communities of color. According to the American Lung Association’s 2021 “State of the Air” report, people of color are three times more likely to live in areas with the worst air quality

Those living with bad air quality face a range of serious health harms. Air pollution can cause lasting damage to the developing lungs of children. Therefore, it can cause more frequent asthma attacks, heart attacks, and strokes, lung cancer, reproductive harm, premature birth and low-birth weight, and even early death. 


As we face a pandemic, emerging research has found that a community’s exposure to even small increases in air pollution over the long term can lead to an increase in the COVID-19 death rate. And we know that Black and Hispanic communities have been among those hit the hardest by the virus.

Longterm impact of air pollution

The disproportionate health burden from air pollution results in an economic burden too. Subsequently, people living in communities with higher air pollution face more missed days of school and work. Additionally, there’s the financial strain of medical costs associated with more hospitalizations and trips to the emergency room.

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Everyone deserves the opportunity to live a full and healthy life. Above all, our nation must ensure clean air for everyone. 

Strengthening and fully enforcing policies that reduce dangerous pollution for all communities, not just some, is essential. As our nation addresses climate change and transitions to cleaner sources of energy, we have an opportunity to invest in the communities most impacted. In short, taking action today will help us address health disparities and clean up the air we all breathe. 

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