Air Pollution

A Small Dose of Air Pollution

  • An Introduction to the Health Effects of Air Pollution

Air Pollution Dossier

  • Name: Air Pollution
  • Definition of air pollution: contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Includes a wide range of chemicals and contaminants but six pollutants of noted concern are ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and lead 
  • Use: Major pollutants do not have uses themselves but are byproducts of combustion and other processes in transportation, energy generation, etc.
  • Recommended daily intake: none (not essential)
  • Absorption: respiratory system (lungs)
  • Sensitive individuals: fetus and children, elderly, people with chronic respiratory problems
  • Toxicity/symptoms: irritation of the respiratory tract, dizziness, headache, neurological disorders, cancer, and reproductive effects
  • Regulatory facts: in the US the EPA sets some standards for air pollutants
  • General facts: emissions of billions of pounds of chemicals and particulate matter every year from a wide range of products and industries, and from combustion of fossil fuels such as coal and gasoline
  • Environmental effects: widely distributed in environment, linked with climate change and acid rain, and can affect wildlife and ecological health
  • Recommendations: minimize air pollution on a global scale, avoid exposure by children and other sensitive groups, expand research on toxicity and alternative sources of energy, adopt precautionary approach, reduce the use of fossil fuels, support international treaties 


Air Pollution Chapter

PowerPoint Presentation

More Information and References

European, Asian, and International Agencies

  • World Health Organization (WHO). Air pollution. Overview of indoor and outdoor air pollution as well as health-related information.
  • UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs. Air Pollution.
  • England. Air Quality England. "This website shows the latest near-real time air quality data for UK Government, local authorities and the private sector across England."

North American Agencies

  • AIRNow. Supported by US EPA, NOAA, NPS, tribal, state, and local agencies, AIRNow provides national air quality information, daily AQI forecasts and real-time AQI conditions for over 300 cities across the US.
  • US EPA. Air Pollution. EPA provides a wealth of information on air pollution regulations, air quality, emissions monitoring, and health and environmental impacts.
  • US EPA. Indoor Air Quality. EPA provides excellent overview and references related to indoor air quality.

Non-Government Organizations

  • American Lung Association (ALA). The American Lung Association works to "save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through Education, Advocacy and Research."
  • The National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA). Provides information on air pollution and represents air pollution control agencies in 45 states and territories and over 116 major metropolitan areas across the United States.
  • Physicians for Social Responsibility. Air Pollution and Our Health. Wide range of information focused on the health effects of air pollution.
  • Natural Resources Defense Council. Air. An overview of air issues.


  • Becerra, T. A., Wilhelm, M., Olsen, J., Cockburn, M., & Ritz, B. (2013). Ambient air pollution and autism in Los Angeles county, California. Environ Health Perspect, 121(3), 380-386.

  • Costa, Daniel L. (2008). Air Pollution. In Casarett and Doull’s Toxicology The Basic Science of Poisons 7th Edition. Editor Curtis D. Klaasen. Pages 1119-1156.
  • Davis, Devra (2002). When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0465015212.
  • Gilbert, S. G., & Weiss, B. (2006). A rationale for lowering the blood lead action level from 10 to 2 microg/dL. Neurotoxicology, 27(5), 693-701.
  • Hong, S., Candelone, J. P., Patterson, C. C., & Boutron, C. F. (1994). Greenland ice evidence of hemispheric lead pollution two millennia ago by greek and roman civilizations. Science, 265(5180), 1841-1843.
  • Jacobson, Mark Z. Air Pollution and Global Warming: History, Science, and Solutions (2nd ed). (2012). Cambridge University Press. 406 pages.
  • Millman, A., Tang, D., & Perera, F. P. (2008). Air pollution threatens the health of children in China. Pediatrics, 122(3), 620-628.
  • Perera, F. P., Tang, D., Wang, S., Vishnevetsky, J., Zhang, B., Diaz, D., et al. (2012). Prenatal polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure and child behavior at age 6-7 years. Environ Health Perspect, 120(6), 921-926.


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