Burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests and farming livestock are increasingly influencing the climate and the earth's temperature. This adds enormous amounts of greenhouse gases to those naturally occurring in the atmosphere, increasing the greenhouse effect and global warming. The resulting pollution affects people’s health in two main ways:

  • By changing the seriousness or frequency of health problems that people already face.
  • By creating new or unanticipated health problems in people or places where they have not been before.

The Connection Between Pollution and Your Health

Pollution isn't just an environmental issue—it's a significant public health concern that impacts millions of lives every day. From the air we breathe to the water we drink, pollution infiltrates our bodies and disrupts our well-being. Air pollution alone kills seven million people every year. Water pollution and plastic pollution both kill over one million people respectively each year. Microplastics in our seafood, beverages, and table salt are linked to serious health issues such as endocrine disruption, weight gain, insulin resistance, decreased reproductive health, and cancer. Check out our subpages on AIR, WATER, and PLASTICS pollution.

Why Pollution Matters

Pollution can come in many forms—air, water, soil, and even noise. Each type of pollution poses unique risks and contributes to a range of health problems, including:

Who is Most at Risk?

While pollution affects everyone, some groups are particularly vulnerable:


Biden-Harris Administration Announces $725 Million from President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda to Clean Up Legacy Pollution

The Department of the Interior today announced that nearly $725 million from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is available to 22 states and the Navajo Nation to create good-paying jobs and catalyze economic opportunity…
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‘Currents bring life – and plastics’: animals of Galápagos live amid mounds of waste

By Karen McVeigh 04/23/24
As our small fishing boat slows to a halt in a shallow bay south-east of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, in the Galápagos Islands, a green turtle surfaces next to us, followed by a second, then…
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‘Nobody Really Knows What You’re Supposed to Do’: Leaking, Abandoned Wells Wreak Havoc in West Texas

By Martha Pskowski 02/29/24
Mounds of dirt towered over Bill Wight, who stared helplessly at the piles that had once been pasture for his cattle. After a few moments, he turned his head and surveyed a vast pool of…
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Fighting Noise Pollution

A growing body of research makes it clear that noise pollution can have severely harmful impacts on our health. It has been tied to heart disease and thousands of premature deaths around the world.
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Diabetes and climate change: breaking the vicious cycle

Climate change is one of the biggest and most devastating challenges facing this world with climate action claiming a place as the SDG13 of the United Nations. The vicious cycle consisting of human decisions influencing…
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How Climate Change Is Fueling Extreme Weather

Carbon pollution is contributing to climate disasters that will only get worse unless we take action.
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D.C. gets lungful of climate change

By Arianna Skibell 06/08/23
In a stunning manifestation of the dangers of a warming world, large swaths of the eastern U.S. are suffering from extreme air pollution driven by hundreds of wildfires raging across Quebec.
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The smoke will fade in the U.S. But cities across the globe aren’t so lucky.

By Claire Parker, Christian Shepherd and Gabriela Martinez 06/08/23
Unusually smoggy skies have upended life for millions of Americans this week as smoke from wildfires in Canada wafts over a large swath of the eastern United States, sparking a slew of Code Red air…
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Arnold Schwarzenegger: ‘No one gives a s— about’ climate change — this is what it should be called instead

By Catherine Clifford 05/30/23
Arnold Schwarzenegger says the global effort to mitigate the effects of climate change is being crippled by its fundamental communication problem. “As long as they keep talking about global climate change, they are not gonna…
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Inside the East Palestine Disaster: A Wake Up Call To Ban Toxic Vinyl Chloride & Go Beyond Plastics

Five of the train cars were carrying vinyl chloride, a known human carcinogen that is used to create polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. The railroad and state officials drained this toxic chemical into a ditch and…
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Derailed train carried chemical used to make ‘the worst’ of the plastics

By James Bruggers 02/08/23
Scientists say PVC is trouble for people and the environment throughout its lifecycle, from manufacturing to disposal, and is almost never recycled.
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To reduce superbugs, world must cut down pollution

Curtailing pollution created by pharmaceuticals, agricultural and healthcare sectors is essential to reduce the emergence, transmission, and spread of superbugs – strains of bacteria that have become resistant to every known antibiotic – and other…
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EWG’s Tap Water Database

Since 2013, water utilities' testing has found pollutants in Americans' tap water, according to an EWG drinking water quality analysis of more than 31 million state water records.

The Most Detailed Map of Cancer-Causing Industrial Air Pollution in the U.S.

ProPublica’s analysis of five years of modeled EPA data identified more than 1,000 toxic hot spots across the country and found that an estimated 250,000 people living in them may be exposed to levels of…

Coming Storms: Climate Change And The Rising Threat To America’s Coastal Seniors

A new Climate Central sea-level-rise analysis identifies the assisted living and nursing homes at risk in five states. Experts say waiting to evacuate during storms is not the answer.

Raising Awareness of the Health Impacts of Coal Plant Pollution

In 2000, 2004 and again in 2010, the Clean Air Task Force issued studies based on a methodology and model created by Abt Associates, U.S EPA’s own health benefits consultant, based on peer-reviewed, published studies…

Planting healthy air: Trees, particulate matter pollution and extreme heat

This study from the Nature Conservancy reviews the positive cooling effects of urban trees planting on hot city climates and the quality of their air.

Climate change is making people sick: A U.S. medical report

From rising levels of air pollution to increased water contamination and a widening range for disease-carrying mosquitoes, climate change is making people sick, a coalition of 11 US medical groups said Wednesday.


Why the government fails to limit many dangerous chemicals in the workplace

By Sharon Lerner   12/15/22  
Before his shift at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber plant in Niagara Falls, N.Y., in May 2021, a worker peed in a cup. Before he clocked out, he did it again. Goodyear shipped both specimens…
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Who’s Driving Climate Change? New Data Catalogs 72,000 Polluters and Counting

By Raymond Zhong   11/09/22  
A nonprofit backed by Al Gore and other big environmental donors says it can track emissions down to individual power plants, oil fields and cargo ships.
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Democrats designed the climate law to be a game changer. Here’s how.

By Lisa Friedman   08/22/22  
In a first, the measure legally defines greenhouse gases as pollution. That’ll make new regulations much tougher to challenge in court.
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Federal study: New climate law to slice carbon pollution 40%

By Seth Borenstein   08/18/22  
Clean energy incentives in the new spending package signed this week by President Joe Biden will trim America’s emissions of heat-trapping gases by about 1.1 billion tons (1 billion metric tons) by 2030, a new…
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Your gas stove is dangerous to your health

By Wynne Armand   07/16/22  
In January, groundbreaking research from Stanford showed that gas stoves release concerning levels of indoor air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides “within a few minutes of usage” and continuously leak methane even when they are…
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How wildfires impact our health, as well as the environment

By Jamie Hailstone   07/13/22  
It is a sad truth that many parts of the world - including various parts of the United States - are now facing an increased risk of wildfires.
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Pollution from California’s 2020 wildfires likely offset decades of air quality gains

By Tony Briscoe   06/17/22  
In an analysis published this week in the annual Air Quality Life Index, researchers found that wildfire smoke probably offset decades of state and federal antipollution efforts, at least temporarily.
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Block-by-block data shows pollution’s stark toll on people of color

By Darryl Fears   05/25/22  
Finding the most polluted places in the San Francisco Bay area is simple, a new air quality analysis shows: Locate places where mostly Black, Latino, Asian and low-income residents live, and pay them a visit.
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Pollution caused 1 in 6 deaths globally for five years, study says

By Kasha Patel   05/17/22  
In 2015, 1 in 6 deaths worldwide stemmed from poor air quality, unsafe water and toxic chemical pollution. That deadly toll — 9 million people each year — has continued unabated through 2019, killing more…
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Switching to electric vehicles could save lives, study finds

By Jamie Hailstone   03/30/22  
Moving to zero-emission vehicles and energy could help prevent up to 110,000 deaths in the United States, according to a new report.
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EPA announces ‘bold’ action to monitor pollution in ‘Cancer Alley’

By Darryl Fears   01/26/22  
Two months after touring “environmental justice” communities in three southern states, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan on Wednesday announced bold steps to address complaints from residents about tainted drinking water, chemical plants near homes…
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Hospitals try to curb astronomical emissions as pandemic brings new challenges

By Yara L. Murr   04/07/21  
Lois Wessel used to work as a labor and delivery nurse in community clinics in Maryland. She remembers that every time a baby was born, she would see a beautiful little creature – and then…
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Climate change has direct negative impacts on farmworker health

By Lela Nargi   03/30/21  
Research confirms the various ways that climate impacts on food and agriculture are adversely affecting our health: Rising CO2 levels lead to less nutritious crops; increased incidence of diseases and pests may cause some farmers to use…
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Rising CO2 will leave crops—and millions of humans—less healthy

By Brian Bienkowski   08/28/18  
Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will render some major crops less nutritious and leave hundreds of millions of people protein and zinc deficient over the next three decades, according to a new…
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