Too much air pollution can harm our health and damage the environment. Air pollution can look like smoke from a wildfire, haze over a city, or exhaust from a car. But sometimes air pollution is something you can’t see or smell.

Air pollutants enter our body when we breathe them in. Pollutants in the air also fall to the ground, and we can breathe in dust and dirt that contain them. Health impacts from air pollution depend on several different factors, including: 

  • What you’re exposed to.
  • How you’re exposed.
  • How much, how long, and how often you are exposed. 

Not all people have the same risk. Age, gender, genetics, lifestyle, health status, and other factors also play a role in how exposure to a pollutant impacts health.

Health effects from breathing air pollution can develop immediately or years later. Air pollution can cause short- and long-term health impacts and increase the risk of premature death. Short-term exposures can lead to eye irritation, wheezing and coughing, difficulty breathing, and nausea. Long-term exposures are associated with lung disease, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Maternal exposure to air pollution is related to adverse birth outcomes, such as low birth weight and preterm birth.

More information on specific air pollutants:

Who is most at risk of health impacts from air pollution?

It is unpredictable how air pollution will impact an individual. Age, lifestyle, and health status can make certain individuals more at risk for health impacts. These sensitive groups include:

  • People with health conditions, such as asthma, lung disease, or heart disease. 
  • Children and older adults.
  • People who exercise or work outdoors.
  • Pregnant people. 

What can you do to reduce your exposure?

Steps to reduce your exposure to air pollutants can include:

Do what you can to help reduce air pollution:

  • Carpool or take public transit.
  • Walk or bike to work when the air quality is healthy.
  • Make sure your car is properly maintained.
  • Use less electricity.
  • The Colorado Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) helps qualified Coloradans save money, increase comfort, and better their homes and environment through proven, energy conservation solutions.

Source: CDC, CDPHE