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The Life and Breath Report: 3 Things I Learned

Mikey Weitekamp

POSTED BY:

Senior Project Manager, Environmental Initiative

When I was considering making the switch from my previous work on environmental communications, waste and recycling to Clean Air Minnesota’s focus on air quality, my biggest motivator was air quality’s substantial and direct impact on the health of our communities. Air quality shapes our health and quality of life with every breath we take.

The recently released Life and Breath: How air pollution affects public health in the Twin Cities, puts an exclamation point on that statement by quantifying the real impact of air quality on human health in the Twin Cities.air and health report cover

What Surprised Me

While I’ve experienced the burning lungs and watery eyes that accompany a poor air quality day, the scale of the impact is literally breathtaking. Life and Breath estimates that air pollution was a significant contributor to roughly 2,000 deaths, 400 hospitalizations and 600 emergency room visits every year. These impacts fall disproportionately on the sick, the elderly, children with asthma, and disadvantaged communities that tend to be predisposed to respiratory and cardiac illness. Here are a couple of comparisons to put that in perspective:

  • If it were classified as its own category, poor air quality would be the sixth leading contributor to premature death, behind unintentional injury and ahead of Alzheimers disease.
  • In a single year, poor air quality contributes to more early deaths in the Twin Cities than car accidents caused over the last five years statewide.

The good news is that the problem is recognized and quantified, and Clean Air Minnesota partners spanning industry, government, and nonprofits have spent the last 15 years implementing innovative, voluntary emissions reduction projects to keep our state’s air worth breathing.

What we’re doing

As the convener of Clean Air Minnesota, Environmental Initiative has been fostering a dialogue and implementing projects to measurably improve air quality on the ground. From reducing diesel emissions through Project Green Fleet to business emission reduction projects and an upcoming wood stove changeout program, Environmental Initiative and Clean Air Minnesota’s partners continue to work hard every day to reduce emissions and improve quality of life in Minnesota.

What you can do

Want to join us in improving our state’s air quality? Consider a few of the easy actions below:

Be Air Aware: Be informed about our air quality. Download the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Minnesota Air app or sign up for air quality alert e-mails.

Take Action: There are many things we can do in our daily lives to reduce our air pollution impacts. Take one small action to help air quality every week.

Spread the Word: Tell your family, friends, and colleagues about what air quality means to you and what you are doing to help. Encourage your workplace to become an Air Aware Employer to multiply your impact.

While the impacts of air pollution on human health are significant, Environmental Initiative and our Clean Air Minnesota partners are taking a uniquely Minnesotan approach to considerably improve our air quality. With your help, there is a bright future for our state’s air.

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