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Air Pollution

Exposure to air pollution can cause health problems in children, the elderly, people with health conditions, and otherwise healthy people. People with asthma can have difficulty breathing if air pollution is high, and long-term exposure can lead to cancer and damage to the immune, neurological, reproductive, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems.


Outdoor air pollutants come from car emissions, burning fossil fuels such as coal, chemical manufacturing, forest fires, and other sources. Air pollution can also occur inside, arising from sources such as mold, pollen, tobacco smoke, pet dander, pest allergens, and building materials like asbestos and formaldehyde.


What NIEHS is doing


NIEHS-funded researchers are investigating the role that air pollution plays in various diseases and are identifying individuals and groups of people who are the most susceptible to this pollution. NIEHS also funds scientists working to improve detection and measurement of air pollutants. For example, small wearable sensors being developed could provide more information on the mixture of pollutants to which individuals are exposed.  


Air pollutants under study include carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, smoke, particulate matter, and pesticides. Grantees seek to better understand the effects of these pollutants on respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, obesity, neurodegeneration, reproductive health, and other health conditions.  


NIEHS research has already resulted in more stringent air quality standards and reduced the costs associated with respiratory disease. As research in this area advances, it will continue to improve health and protect quality of life.


For additional information on what NIEHS grantees are doing, visit our Who We Fund tool.

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