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National Clean Air Month: Clearing the Air for Everyone

Every May, National Clean Air Month encourages everyone to take responsibility for safeguarding the air we breathe and, as a result, our planet. By better understanding air quality, we can learn how we can contribute to solving air pollution. 

This nationwide motivates individuals, communities, and businesses to take responsibility for improving the air we breathe. Fresh air, after all, is beneficial to human health. Read on to learn more.

Featured in: May - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.

History and Background of National Clean Air Month

clean air
Photo by Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash.

The Clean Air Act of 1970 was the first attempt in the US to solve air pollution nationally. Inspired by this law, the American Lung Association introduced National Clean Air Month in May 1972 to raise awareness about air quality and disease prevention. They chose May, which marks the start of the summer smog season in many parts of the country. 

This event also starts with Air Quality Awareness Week, hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government agencies.

The event also tackles specific clean air initiatives, such as reporting on state and federal air quality issues. State of the Air by the American Lung Association and Our Nation’s Air by EPA are the two major annual reports in the US.

Without a doubt, National Clean Air Month helped promote the Act's strict air quality standards and called for the enforcement of existing rules. 

Over the years, this initiative has even helped catalyze legislative change. For example, the government amended the Clean Air Act in 1977 and 1990 to expand its reach to tackle acid rain, ozone depletion, and toxic air pollution. 

The Cause and Its Challenges

air pollution
Photo by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier on Flickr licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

Air pollution results2 from human activities such as industrial work, car emissions, deforestation, and burning of fossil fuels. Since its health impacts are substantial, communities worldwide are working to mitigate the effects of this silent enemy. 

According to various studies, outdoor air pollution causes1 3.3 to 8.7 million premature deaths every year around the world. People suffer from various respiratory diseases, such as asthma and bronchitis, aggravated by poor air quality. 

Air pollution also raises questions about environmental justice; low-income communities and racial minorities often face the highest levels of pollutants.

Related Read: Air Pollution Facts & Statistics, Environmental Impact Of The Industrial Revolution.

Why National Clean Air Month Matters

Air pollution is a public health crisis that can exacerbate respiratory conditions, increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and even trigger certain types of cancer.

Burning fossil fuels, particularly for transportation and electricity, is one of the many root causes of poor air quality. Unfortunately, humanity's progress in recent decades is harming the air we breathe.

Moreover, indoor air quality can be equally harmful as outdoor air pollution. Burning biomass fuels and coal for cooking and heating in developing countries pose a serious health risk. It contaminates indoor air and leads to health problems such as pneumonia and lung cancer.

Since air is a requirement of life, its pollution also negatively impacts our crops, forests, and water bodies.

Efforts and Initiatives

Improving air quality is a worldwide agenda. Starting with the World Health Organization, they launched the BreatheLife campaign. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the World Bank also lead it.

It aims to raise awareness and provide resources, tools, and best practices to help communities clean up their act. Thanks to the campaign, Santiago, Chile, has reduced particulate matter in its air. 

On a national level, the American Lung Association's State of the Air report provides an annual overview of air quality across the U.S. and highlights the need for action. As a result, Los Angeles tightened emission standards in response to the report's findings. 

The Clean Air for Europe (CAFE) program, backed by the European Union, aims to improve air quality through research and collaboration. London has seen a drop in nitrogen dioxide emissions thanks to CAFE's guidelines.

How to Get Involved and Support National Clean Air Month

planting tree
Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash.

Use the power of social media by sharing pictures of planting trees or tweeting about carpooling and reducing carbon footprint to create a ripple effect. Otherwise, you can share insightful articles about tackling air pollution, post informative videos about practical steps to cleaner air, or host a live chat with an eco-expert.

You can also volunteer at local non-profit organizations championing air quality. These organizations use talents like writing, graphic design, or event planning to achieve their mission.

Trees help combat air pollution by absorbing air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and other particulate matter. So, participate or start a tree planting project of your own.

Lastly, lobby corporations and policymakers to create long-lasting changes to improve air quality.


Celebrating Clean Air Month encourages people to reduce air pollution and its impact on our health and the environment. It reminds us of our collective responsibility to preserve one of life’s building blocks.

Let’s show support by choosing public transport, reducing electricity consumption, and supporting clean air initiatives. 

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is National Clean Air Month?

It is a designated time to raise awareness about air pollution and promote actions to improve air quality.

2. Why is air pollution a problem?

Air pollution can cause respiratory issues, heart disease, and premature death. It also harms the environment, contributing to climate change and damaging ecosystems.

3. How does air pollution affect children?

Children’s lungs are still developing, making them more vulnerable to air pollution. It can lead to long-term health problems and affect their cognitive development.

4. What are some common sources of air pollution?

These are vehicle emissions, industrial activities, power generation from fossil fuels, and combustion of solid fuels for cooking and heating.

5. What can individuals do to help improve air quality?

You can reduce your carbon footprint by using public transportation, carpooling, or walking/biking instead of driving. Moreover, it supports clean energy sources, conserves energy, and plants trees so we can enjoy fresh air.


Roser, M. (2021). Data review: how many people die from air pollution? Our World In Data


Health Effects Institute. (2020). State of Global Air 2020. Data source: Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. IHME, 2020.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

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