How Air Pollution Affects Community Health in United States


An expert discussion on climate change and air pollution effects on communities, including increased COVID-19 rates.

In April, the American Lung Association released their 2021 State of the Air Report, a national data resource on air pollutants and pollution levels across the United States.

Data show that more than 40% of people live in an area with an unhealthy level of air pollution, with regional disparities showing people of color and people in poverty are more likely to live in areas with poor air quality.

The most recent episode of Lungcast, hosted by Al Rizzo, MD, held a discussion on the intersection of air pollution, climate change and COVID-19.

Rizzo was joined by Poune Saberi, MD and Alan Greenglass, MD, from the Board of Physicians for Social Reponsibility (PSR) to discuss how these intersections relate to community health in the United States.

Greenglass, a past president of PSR, spoke on data showing worsened effects COVID-19 due to increased particulate matter 2.5 (PM 2.5) pollution rates in areas with poor air quality.

“In the United States, it is thought that 18% of COVID-19 deaths have been due to excess PM2.5,” Greenglass said. “There is air pollution and there is the virus, and they seem to work synergistically.”

Saberi, board president of PSR, noted the importance of environmental justice when mitigating drivers of climate change, such as fossil fuels, as it creates a public health opportunity for communities.

“When we transition away from these sources and create equitable systems, and we are polluting environment less, the health benefits will be higher for those who are currently most impacted,” Saberi said.

Lungcast is a monthly podcast series from HCPLive and the ALA. Listen to the full episode here:

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