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Outdoor Air Pollution

The most common air pollutants carry dangerous health effects. Air pollution triggers asthma episodes, sends people to hospitals, shapes how kids' lungs develop and can even be deadly. Different pollutants hurt our bodies in different ways.

Who Is at Risk?

Someone in every family is likely to be at risk from air pollution. Does someone you love belong to one of these vulnerable groups?

10 Tips to Protect Yourself from Air Pollution

You can reduce dirty air's harmful impact on yourself and your family. Here are some tips to minimize your exposure to dangerous air pollutants. The more information you have, the healthier you can be.

Air Quality Index (AQI)

Ever hear your local weather forecaster say that tomorrow will be a "code orange" day for air pollution? That's the Air Quality Index at work. The Air Quality Index, or AQI, is the system used to warn the public when air pollution levels are dangerous. Learn more about the AQI.

Common Air Pollutants

  • Ozone
    Ozone (also called smog) is currently one of the least-well-controlled pollutants in the United States. It is also one of the most dangerous—and it's invisible.
  • Particulate Matter
    Particulate matter, or particle pollution, refers to a mix of very tiny solid and liquid particles that are in the air we breathe. It is dangerous enough to shorten your life.
  • Nitrogen Dioxide
    Nitrogen dioxide is a gas that comes from burning fuels. Live near a busy highway? You may be breathing a lot of nitrogen dioxide.
  • Sulfur Dioxide
    Sulfur dioxide forms when sulfur-containing fuel such as coal, oil or diesel is burned. Live near a power plant or a port? You may have more sulfur dioxide in your air. 
  • Carbon Monoxide
    Carbon monoxide is another gas that forms from burning fuels.  High levels often show up near roadways.
  • Toxic Air Pollutants
    Nearly 200 other pollutants emitted into the air can cause diseases, including lung cancer, or cause other harmful effects.

    Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed November 8, 2017.

    Page Last Updated: June 19, 2018

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