Calculating the Hidden Costs of Air Pollution
Air pollution is all around us.
It’s present in our homes, especially when we cook food or light the fireplace. It’s on the streets whenever we pass a moving vehicle. It’s even in our schools and workplaces.
The World Health Organization reports that 99% of the global population lives in areas where air pollution levels exceed safe limits.
But how much is air pollution truly costing you?
Today, we’ll break down the impact of poor air quality on our health, society, and the economy.
How Much Is Air Pollution Costing Us?
Air pollution costs the United States more than $820 billion annually, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That’s because air pollutants, like particulate matter, increase the chances of developing diseases that lead to premature deaths.
In fact, the average American is paying an estimated $2,500 annually in medical bills as they seek medication and professional care for air pollution-related diseases. However, it doesn’t stop there.
The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air reports that fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is responsible for a total of 1.8 billion workday absences in recent years. That means people aren’t only getting sick, but they're also missing work opportunities, worsening the financial burden.
In short, air pollution is costing us money and, more importantly, our lives.
How Better Air Quality Can Benefit Us
However, there's a silver lining: enhancing air quality can lead to significant positive outcomes.
A six-year study by Carnegie Mellon University found that economy-wide gross external damage caused by PM2.5 declined by 20% from 2008 to 2014.
Plus, the Environmental Protection Agency computed that the Clean Air Act prevented:
- 230,000 adult mortalities attributed to particulate matter pollution
- 280 infant mortalities attributed to particulate matter pollution
- 120,000 hospital room visits
- 5,400,000 school loss days
- 17,000,000 lost workdays
In other words, improving air quality reduces our chances of developing diseases, improves our quality of life, and ultimately saves our lives.
How to Reduce Air Pollution
There's no doubt that raising air quality benefits not only you, but everyone else as well. And it doesn’t have to be expensive or laborious either. Here are four simple but impactful ways you can improve your air quality starting today.
#1 – Begin Air Quality Monitoring
One of the many benefits of air quality monitoring is the ability to measure the effectiveness of your actions. As such, you can see if your air quality initiatives are effectively helping you and your community. It can also motivate you to do more, as putting a number to your work can help you see the concrete results of your efforts.
Pro Tip: If you don’t have the means to get an air quality monitor, you can always check the PurpleAir Map. Through it, you can access real-time air quality data for free.
#2 – Improve Indoor Air Pollution
Improving air quality always starts at home, especially when we spend about 90% of our time indoors. Some of the ways you can improve indoor air quality include:
- Using a range hood when cooking or baking
- Switching to eco-friendly cleaning solutions
- Regularly cleaning your home
- Investing in an air purifier or building a DIY air purifier
#3 – Join or Start an Air Quality Group
You don’t have to be alone in your fight against air pollution. Air quality groups are a great way to meet people with the same goal and put more power into your efforts. As they say, there’s strength in numbers.
More than that, many air quality groups include experts on their teams. Because these people are focused on your area, you can often find even more effective ways to improve air quality based on the latest science and research they put forward.
#4 – Advocate for Local Air Quality Policies in Your Community
You can take your fight against air pollution a step further by involving your local government and advocating for air quality policies in your community. This way, you can create a more significant impact by holding major polluters in your neighborhood accountable. In return, this helps ensure that everyone has equal access to cleaner air.
Air pollution may be all around us, costing our health, finances, and economy. But that doesn’t mean we’re powerless against it. By continually working to reduce air pollution, we can reap the advantages of cleaner air instead of counting the costs.
Connect With PurpleAir
At PurpleAir, there are tons of organizations and researchers around the world using our data—from Google to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We’re thrilled to see research like the one we analyzed above be used to help local neighborhoods, and we look forward to seeing more in the future.
Are you a technology company or institution looking to work with PurpleAir?