Ending Clean Air Month with Liz Mueller of the American Lung Association

As many of our readers know, May is Clean Air Month. It’s also Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. Clean air is essential for healthy lungs, particularly for those facing health challenges like lung disease and asthma. Yet, according to the American Lung Association, nearly half of all Americans live with unhealthy air – harming health and making it harder to breathe.

As May ends, we are going to hear from none other than Liz Mueller, National Director of Advocacy for Healthy Air at the American Lung Association. Mueller will walk us through the organization’s mission, and some important tips on keeping your lungs healthy! Don’t forget to take the Reduce Energy Use DC Pledge today!


Can you tell us about the mission of the American Lung Association?

The American Lung Association saves lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. Founded by volunteers dedicated to ending tuberculosis, our mission over the last 115 years has been to help Americans breathe easier – whether by ensuring everyone has access to quality, accessible and affordable healthcare, ending the tobacco epidemic, or advocating for clean air. We are America's trusted source for lung health education, lung disease research, support, programs, services, and advocacy.

Why was it important for the American Lung Association to take this pledge?

The American Lung Association has long been a champion for clean air. For the past 22 years, we have released an annual report on the nation’s air quality, identifying trends and grading regions on their levels of three dangerous air pollutants – ground-level ozone (or smog) and short-term and annual particulate matter (or soot). This year’s "State of the Air" found that more than 4 in 10 Americans are breathing in unhealthy levels of air pollution and that people of color are more than three times as likely as white people to live with the most polluted air. The findings also follow the results of previous reports showing that climate change is threatening to undo the progress the nation has made under the Clean Air Act, passed 50 years ago. Reducing overall energy use is a key step in reducing harmful emissions and mitigating climate change – two actions that must happen to protect lung health.

Why is responsible energy use so important to those with lung conditions?

Air pollution impacts everyone, but some face more significant health risks – like those with lung disease. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks and lead to more hospitalizations of those with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It can also increase the severity of an asthma attack in children. Exposure to particle pollution can also cause lung cancer. Reducing energy use will reduce the amount of emissions released into the air from electricity generated from polluting sources, like coal-fired power plants, thereby lessening the health impacts an individual with lung conditions may face.

As it is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, we felt that this was a great time to hear from your organization. What are some tips for people who live with asthma or other breathing conditions? 

Pay attention to the daily air quality in your neighborhood. On days when the air quality index reaches the level of ‘Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” (or yellow on the Air Quality Index Scale at AirNow.gov) – or worse – it may be best for those with asthma or other lung conditions to limit their time outside and keep windows closed. This is particularly important for those living in areas prone to wildfires or in the path of wildfire smoke.

If you are capable of doing so, consider investing in a HEPA air filter to clean the air indoors. Just be sure to purchase one that doesn’t emit ozone, as ozone pollution brings its own health harms.

What is the most important piece of information that you wish everyone knew about keeping their lungs healthy?

Climate change and air pollution are harmful to lung health. Climate change is a health emergency. Warmer temperatures make dangerous ozone pollution and wildfire smoke more likely, and extreme weather and storms can also take a toll on lung health. By taking individual steps and advocating for large-scale action, we can reduce emissions, improve air quality and limit climate warming to below 1.5 degree Celsius. The American Lung Association has resources for individuals to educate themselves and their communities on the health impacts of air pollution and climate change at Lung.org/air where individuals can commit to Stand Up For Clean Air. We often say that when you can’t breathe, nothing else matters. Make the connection between climate change, energy use, and health and commit to protecting public health today.