John Balmes, MD: How to Advocate for Air Quality Improvement


In this Lungcast episode segment, Balmes spoke about advocating for air pollution improvements, inequities in air quality, and more.

The American Lung Association (ALA) updated its air pollution statistics through its 2024 State of the Air report publication. In the latest Lungcast episode, ALA chief medical officer Albert Rizzo, MD, discussed the report with John Balmes, MD, professor of medicine emeritus for the University of California, San Francisco.

Rizzo and Balmes covered several areas of the topic of the State of the Air report. This segment of their interview covered how air pollution improvements can be advocated for, inequities in air quality, and other related issues.

First, Rizzo asked Balmes about what some of the measures that an individual and organizations like the ALA can advocate for with the goal of helping to keep moving clean air levels in the right direction.

“I think that the most important thing to do as individuals is to try to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” Balmes explained. “Electrifying our motor vehicles and electrifying our home appliances are the big things we can do as individuals, because that will reduce both particle pollution from fossil fuel combustion but also precursors for ozone. We need clean transportation and clean power generation.”

Balmes noted that the ALA has been a standout in terms of advocating for clean air and common sense clean air regulations. He added that the organization is attempting to mobilize people to understand the intersection between climate change and air quality.

Rizzo later explained that, in addition to measuring these levels of ozone and particulate matter, the ALA is concerned about the inequities that exist regarding poor air quality exposure. Balmes was asked to comment on what the 2024 report tells us about the inequities that persist.

“One of the things I like about this year's report is that there's more of a focus on inequities,” Balmes said.” …We know that low income communities of color in general across the country have a greater burden of exposure to air pollution, especially PM2.5, especially from diesel vehicles and from coal fired power plants. There's really no question about it, so what we're trying to do in California is address local hotspots of air pollution in those communities.”

Balmes explained that in California, in addition to some other states, community level monitoring is becoming more common, during which the placement of monitors are where the hotspots of exposure are.

Lungcast is a monthly respiratory news podcast series hosted by Al Rizzo, MD, chief medical officer of the ALA, and produced by HCPLive. To learn more, view the full video segment posted above.

Subscribe to Lungcast on Spotify here, or listen to the episode below.

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