When pandemic precautions allow, Runyon Canyon Park outside of Los Angeles offers hikers a great workout, an occasional celebrity sighting, and an incredible view of the LA skyline framed in . . . smog?
It’s true that California is notorious for its struggle with air quality. When The American Lung Association released its State of the Air report last year, ranking cities among three lists—including ozone pollution, year-round particle pollution, and short-term particle pollution—California cities topped all three. Los Angeles ranked worst in ozone pollution, the Fresno metropolitan area worst in year-round particle pollution, and Bakersfield worst in short-term particle pollution.
But when we see that business carries on as usual and people still enjoy playing on the beach or hiking in the surrounding hills, does air quality really matter in the long run? Yes! Here are three reasons why clean air is so important to our health and environment.
1. Clean air improves quality of life.
There are laws in place to protect people from air pollution. First passed in 1963, The Clean Air Act was designed to reduce air pollution by focusing on reducing the ambient and source-specific sources of air pollution. Through this legislation, the EPA can set limits on certain air pollutants and use an air quality index to alert people of air quality in their area. For instance, a green day means air quality is satisfactory and poses little or no health risk. But a red or purple day means air quality is poor and hazardous to your health and that you should limit or restrict your time outdoors.
It’s important to follow those guidelines. Experts attribute exposure to poor air quality to a variety of respiratory diseases, including asthma. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution contributes to almost half (43 percent) of all deaths and illnesses resulting from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 24 percent of deaths from stroke, and 29 percent of all deaths and diseases resulting from lung cancer.
2. Clean air protects ocean life.
While 80 percent of pollution in our oceans comes from land as runoff, the National Ocean Service says that some water pollution originates in the air, which settles into waterways and oceans.
“When we burn fossil fuels, we don’t pollute just the air but the oceans, too. Indeed, today’s seas absorb as much as a quarter of all man-made carbon emissions, which changes the pH of surface waters and leads to acidification,” writes Melissa Denchak for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This problem is rapidly worsening—oceans are now acidifying faster than they have in some 300 million years. It’s estimated that by the end of this century, if we keep pace with our current emissions practices, the surface waters of the ocean could be nearly 150 percent more acidic than they are now.”
3. Clean air is good for business.
Healthy employees are good for business, taking fewer sick days and delivering better job performance. Some experts found that air pollution from energy production in the US caused at least $131 billion in damage to its economy, including increased healthcare costs.
From a marketing perspective, most consumers want to support companies who help them make a positive difference on global issues—such as supporting environmental causes, for instance. That in and of itself can help a business grow. But some companies—like Google and IKEA—are building their brand around air quality efforts by finding ways to minimize air pollution through product innovation. For example, IKEA is developing ways to use waste materials left over by farmers in India who typically burn their spent crops to make room for new ones.
While we may be shut indoors for now, air quality matters, inside and out. With improvements to our quality of life, protection for ocean life, and boosts for business, air quality is worth caring about.