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Air Quality and Respiratory Disease

Air quality is highly affected by weather and climate conditions. In turn, certain aspects of air quality are known to affect health. In particular, ozone and airborne fine particulate matter (PM2.5) have well documented human health effects.

Ozone is formed in warm, polluted air in the presence of sunlight; PM2.5s are generated by a range of sources, but primarily from the burning of fossil fuels. Ozone causes direct, reversible lung injury; increases premature mortality; worsens respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); and may cause lasting lung damage. PM2.5s are associated with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, including asthma, COPD, and cardiac dysrhythmias, and are responsible for increased school and work absences, emergency department visits, and hospital admissions.

Current science suggests that climate change is likely to increase the concentration of ground-level ozone in the U.S., particularly in Northeastern, Midwestern, and Western cities. With these increases, these areas can expect increased burdens of respiratory disease.

While of great interest, there is currently insufficient evidence to determine the likely effects of climate change on PM2.5.

Additional Information about Air Quality and Respiratory Disease

CDC Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Website