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March is Pollution Awareness Month

Air Pollution and Your Health

Air pollution is a known environmental health hazard. We know what we are looking at when brown smog settles over a city, exhaust fumes swirl across busy highways, or a cloud that rises from a smokestack. Some air pollution cannot be seen, but its pungent smell lets you know it is there.

Air pollution exposure is connected to oxidative stress and inflammation in human cells, which could lay a foundation for chronic diseases and cancer.

How Does Air Pollution Affect Your Health?

  • Respiratory Disease
    Air pollution can affect lung development and it is associated in the development of emphysema, asthma, and other respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

  • Cardiovascular Disease
    Fine particle matter can impair blood vessel function and speed up calcification in arteries.

  • Cancer
    The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) sister study found airborne toxic substances, especially methylene chloride, which is used in aerosol products and paint removers, are also associated with increased risk of breast cancer.

Over its 50-plus year history, NIEHS has been one of the leaders in air pollution research. The institute continues to fund and conduct research into how air pollution affects health and the population groups who are most affected.


For further information about pollution, access the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at