Climate Postcards: Climate Change Makes Me Sick!

Climate Postcards: Air Quality

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Below, you will find detailed information, resources, and opportunities to take climate-protective action.

Climate change degrades air quality. How does that damage my health?

Ground-level ozone:

  • Harms your heart: Worsens angina, increases heart attacks, and increases the risk of potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Damages lungs: Reduces lung function, causes permanent lung tissue damage, increases hospital visits and raises the risk of premature death. It can also cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Aggravates or causes asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Frequency of asthma attacks can rise due to exposure.

“Current levels of ground-level ozone have been estimated to be responsible for tens of thousands of hospital and emergency room visits, millions of cases of acute respiratory symptoms and school absences, and thousands of premature deaths each year in the United States.”
-U.S. Global Change Research Program (see below)

Climate change also increases wildfires and dust storms, greatly increasing levels of particulate matter, with potentially severe implications for health.


Wildfires have become more severe in several parts of the U.S. as temperatures rise. They are a major source of particulate matter (fine, even microscopic particles of dust and soot), which is a serious airborne health threat. Particulate matter:

  • Harms your heart: Fine particulates can trigger heart attacks and contribute to congestive heart failure (impairing the heart’s ability to pump blood).
  • Even brief, passing increases in particulate matter are clearly linked to potentially fatal events like acute stroke and cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Harms your lungs: Particulates are associated with lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Increases asthma: Particulate exposure can exacerbate asthma and even cause new cases. Asthma affects millions of Americans. It can be serious, even life-threatening, and there is no cure.


Climate change-induced droughts and dust storms also contribute to particulate matter. They also increase the transmission of dust-borne pathogens, like those that cause Coccidioidomycosis, or “Valley Fever.”

  • Valley Fever symptoms are flu-like, but if the infection persists, it may cause chronic pneumonia; symptoms can last for years.
  • Dust storms extend the geographic range of this illness, putting more people at risk.

Ozone and particulate matter together contribute to the four leading causes of death in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer, diseases of the respiratory system, and stroke.

What can I do to fight climate change and protect air quality?

  • Use our postcards to query your federal, state or local government representatives: What are they doing to protect your community from the dangers to health posed by climate change?
    • Climate change is accelerated by burning fossil fuels. In order to slow climate change and protect air quality, we must replace fossil fuels with renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • You can make personal health decisions based on current ozone and particulate matter concentrations by consulting the EPA’s Enviroflash web site.
  • Join PSR’s Activist List
  • Spread the knowledge by sharing our postcards!


All Climate Postcards

Climate Postcards: Water-Borne Illness

Climate Postcards: Vector-Borne Disease

Climate Postcards: Insect-Borne Disease

Climate Postcards: Heat

Climate Postcards: Extreme Weather

Climate Postcards: Allergies

Climate Postcards: Air Quality

Climate Postcards: Agriculture