California is known for its air quality struggle. In fact, in the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report released in 2019, which ranks cities among three lists—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.
Regardless, we continue to see that business carries on as usual, and people still enjoy playing on the beach or hiking in the surrounding hills. Does that mean air quality doesn’t matter in the long run? No! Here are three reasons why clean air continues to be so important to our health and environment.
1. Improved Quality of Life
Laws exist to protect people from air pollution. The Clean Air Act, which first passed in 1963, was designed to reduce air pollution by focusing on reducing the source-specific and ambient sources of air pollution. Because of this legislation, the EPA can limit certain air pollutants and use an air quality index to alert people of air quality in their area. 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, whereas a green day means air quality poses little to no health risk.
2. Protection of Ocean Life
While the majority of pollution in the world’s oceans (80 percent) comes from the land as runoff, the National Ocean Service says some water pollution originates in the air, which settles into oceans and waterways.
“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,” says the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Melissa Denchak. “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. Good for Business
Healthy employees who take fewer sick days and delivering better job performance can translate into a healthy business. But that’s hard to do when the air itself is keeping you sick. Experts found that energy production air pollution in the US caused $131 billion in damage to its economy, including increased healthcare costs.
When it comes to brand loyalty, consumers are more likely to support companies that make a positive difference in global issues like pollution. But some companies—Google and IKEA, for example—are making news by finding ways to minimize air pollution through product innovation. IKEA, for example, is developing ways to use excess materials left by farmers in India who typically burn spent crops to plan for new ones.
Even though we’ve been asked to spend more time indoors for now, air quality matters. With improvements to our quality of life, protection for ocean life, and boosts for business, air quality is worth caring about.