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New scientific research shows that the current levels of air pollution that we believed to be safe can actually cause serious damage to our health. This new information underscores the urgency for tougher clean air standards.


A concerned mother in Ohio has two children with severe asthma. She has had to call 9-1-1 so often when they can't breathe that the emergency responders know her daughters' names. They live just outside a big city, so their air becomes polluted by car exhaust and industry.

Emergency responders shouldn't have to get to know our childrens' names by heart. Kids with asthma should not have to be rushed to the emergency room because the air they breathe is so polluted that it triggers a life-threatening asthma attack.

Polluting our air not only affects kids with asthma. Air pollution can have devastating effects on all Americans.

While some of these effects are immediately apparent – a child suffering a severe asthma attack or an adult with emphysema being rushed to the emergency room because he or she can't breathe – other impacts aren't instantly noticeable, such as certain types of cancer and impaired brain function.

Since passage of the Clean Air Act almost 45 years ago, the United States has made significant progress in cleaning up our air. However, scientific advances have shown that the levels of air pollutants we believed were once safe are actually dangerous.

Ground-level ozone, more commonly known as smog, is one of the most widespread and dangerous air pollutants in the U.S. Currently allowable levels of smog can cause serious damage to our health.

The American Lung Association estimates that more than 138 million people – four of every ten Americans – live in areas with smog or particle pollution levels that exceed even the current national air quality limits.

Exposure to dirty air has increased the lifetime risk of cancer for the entire U.S. population to one in 100,000, acording to the EPA.

While breathing dirty air is a health risk for everyone, certain groups – children, the elderly, and people with lung and heart disease – are especially vulnerable to its effects. And recent research shows that air pollution can also harm developing fetuses, people with diabetes, and individuals struggling with obesity. African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Native Americans/Alaskan Natives have higher rates of asthma than the general population and so are more vulnerable to air pollution. Conditions associated with poverty also appear to exacerbate the effects of air pollution.

206 million people in the U.S. would breathe cleaner air under a smog standard of 60 parts per billion. View our interactive map for more information.

Key Report Findings

  • Compared to current levels, an ozone standard of 60 ppb would prevent up to 5,800 premature deaths, 2,100 hospital admissions for breathing problems, 6,600 asthma-related visits to the emergency room, and 1.7 million asthma attacks in children every year. This would save between $12-20 billion in health costs annually by 2025. And these estimates do not even include the additional $2.1-3.6 billion in benefits from areas in California, which would have longer to meet the stricter standard.

  • Over the last ten years, federal air quality funding to states has fallen by 21 percent. This is a serious problem because states are primarily responsible for developing, implementing, and enforcing clean air programs, and they have been unwilling or unable to compensate for the significant drop in federal support. States need substantially more funding, not less, to protect their residents from polluted air.


  • EPA can protect millions more Americans by adopting the 60 parts per billion ozone standard, which current science indicates is necessary to adequately protect public health.

  • Congress should fund state and local air quality agencies at the 60 percent match level allowed by the Clean Air Act. This would provide over $600 million more per year for states to meet air quality standards, expand their air pollution monitoring networks, and step up enforcement of air quality standards.

  • Congress can also prioritize cleaner air for all Americans by increasing funding to the EPA. Beyond allowing the agency to increase its financial support to state air quality agencies, these resources would allow EPA to provide more technical assistance and conduct essential research into the health impacts of air pollution.

Take Action

1. Sign our petition urging the EPA to clean up our air!

2. Post a message on EPA's Facebook. You can include a comment under their recent posting. Here's a sample message:

"Please follow the advice of your Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee and public health, public interest, and environmental organizations and set the revised smog standard at the 60 parts per billion level that scientists tell us is necessary to ensure clean air for all Americans."

3. Tweet at @EPA.

There are far too many “red alert” days for air pollution. @EPA pls tighten standards! We have a right to clean air. bit.ly/got-clean-air

We owe it to future generations to clean up our air now. @EPA has the chance to. Details: bit.ly/got-clean-air #health #climatechange

Even low levels of pollutants like smog and small particles can damage our #health. Time 4 cleaner air, @EPA bit.ly/got-clean-air

.@EPA can give 206 million Americans cleaner, healthier air to breathe. Here’s how: bit.ly/got-clean-air

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