In Your Backyard: New NRDC Web Tool Details How Climate Change Will Worsen Air Pollution, Health Problems Affecting States

Aug 03, 2011, 13:00 ET from Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, D.C.

DC, MA, MI, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, VA, WV, CA and TX analyzed in NRDC web tool

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Climate change is expected to worsen air pollution in northeastern states along with its associated health problems, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

A new web tool unveiled by NRDC lets users read how badly their state might be impacted by climate change. On the site,, users can see local data and maps detailing extreme weather patterns throughout the country, see local climate change vulnerabilities and learn about health problems in their own communities that are connected to climate change.

Based on an analysis of data gathered by from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and other resources NRDC's new "Climate Change Threatens Health" webpage lets users see the effects of climate change at a regional and state level.

For example, the NRDC web tool highlights areas with unhealthy air quality in each state. Users can see  in 41 percent of states (21 of 51), the majority of counties experienced both unhealthy summer ozone smog and allergenic ragweed (AR, CT, DC, IL, IN, LA, ME, MA, MI, MO, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, VT, VA, WV). Both of these air pollution health threats are projected to worsen due to climate change.

Exposure to increased smog, pollen pollution, and wildfire smoke puts a wide range of people at risk for irritated eyes, throats and lung damage (the U.S. EPA likened breathing ozone to getting a sunburn on your lungs). This includes outdoor workers, children, the elderly, and those who exercise outside.

But people with asthma, allergies, and other respiratory diseases face the most serious threats, since exposure to increased pollution heightens sensitivity to allergens, impairs lungs, triggers asthma attacks, sends people to the hospital, and even results in death.

Among other key findings throughout the United States:

  • At locations both urban and rural, air pollution challenged health in the last decade.  Even around cities in the southwest like Phoenix, Arizona, where people used to travel for the clean air, now suffers from a double-whammy of air pollution that will get worse with climate change.
  • 78 percent of states (40 of the 51) had at least one county in the highest-vulnerability category, with both ragweed and unhealthy summer ozone smog days reported. The 10 states that did not have a county in the highest-vulnerability category are: Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa.
  • Every state, except Alaska, reported the presence of allergenic ragweed. As more carbon pollution worsens climate change, it also makes ragweed produce more pollen, harming health of people with allergies and asthma in these 49 states.
  • Of the 21 states most vulnerable to air pollution, 16 (76 percent) do not have climate change adaptation plans that specifically address air pollution (AR, CT, DC, IL, IN, LA, MA, MO, NJ, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, VT, WV), highlighting the low state of national climate-health preparedness in many locations.
  • On the positive side, 24 percent (5 of 21) of states in the highest vulnerability group (ME, MI, NH, NY, VA) also have air pollution-preparedness plans; and 6 vulnerable states have air pollution climate preparedness plans already in place to help protect their residents' health (CA, FL, MD, OR, WA, WI ).

"Climate change is real and in many cases is already affecting people and natural ecosystems," said Kim Knowlton, senior scientist in NRDC's health and environment program. "Our analysis will help people across the country find out exactly how climate change affects their state. From the dangers of extreme heat and increased flooding to the spread of  ragweed whose pollen causes allergies or mosquitoes that can spread disease, climate change does not discriminate and local communities need to be better prepared."

Dan Lashof, director of NRDC's Climate Center, said these threats, aggravated by increased levels of carbon pollution, illustrate the danger of congressional efforts to dismantle the Clean Air Act and its public health protections.

"Climate preparedness should be better funded, and the states that don't have public health preparedness strategies in their climate adaptation plans definitely need to add those," Lashof said.  "Our maps show this is an ongoing problem, and the health effects of this summer's heat waves have not even been fully measured yet."

The NRDC website can be found here

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at

SOURCE Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, D.C.