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Air Quality 101

Air pollution is a leading environmental threat to human health.

We have a short slideshow here, and we have powerpoint slideshows of different lengths (from 2 slides to 60 slides) that walk you through the key issues here.

Particles in the air such as dust, dirt, soot, and smoke are one kind of air pollution that is known to cause health problems. Particles in the air come from many different sources; while cars and trucks are primary sources, forest fires, road dust, electrical power plants, and industrial processes also contribute to Particulate Matter PM2.5.

Fine particulates can play a role in causing serious illnesses and death because they are small enough to be inhaled deep into the lungs. Once fine particles are in the lungs, they can affect the heart, blood vessels, and lungs, especially if exposure is ongoing over time. People exposed to fine particles over a long period of time have more heart and lung problems.

Particle pollution can affect anyone, but it bothers some people more than others. People most likely to experience health effects caused by particle pollution include:

  • People with heart or lung diseases (for example, asthma)
  • Older adults
  • Infants and children


Particle pollution can also cause:

  • Eye irritation
  • Lung and throat irritation
  • Trouble breathing
  • Lung cancer
  • Problems with babies at birth (for example, low birth weight)

When particle pollution levels are high, take steps to limit the amount of air you breathe in while you’re outside. For example:

  • Think about spending more time indoors, where particle pollution levels are usually lower.
  • Choose easier outdoor activities (like walking instead of running) so you don’t breathe as hard.
  • Avoid busy roads and highways where PM is usually worse because of emissions from cars and trucks.

To find out about air quality in your area, visit

Last modified on February 13th, 2018
Posted on February 29th, 2016