Why we care

Clean air means healthier peopleDowntown minneapolis - lightrail, cars, and buses

Air pollution affects all Minnesotans. Scientists are finding that lower and lower concentrations of air pollutants can still harm people and the environment, and that for some pollutants there may not be a safe threshold.

Breathing in air pollution can cause a range of problems, from itchy throats and burning eyes to triggering asthma and bronchitis attacks. It contributes to cancer and other serious illnesses, heart attacks, and even premature death. Young children and the elderly are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, but even healthy, athletic adults can be harmed by breathing air pollutants. Some people are more susceptible to the effects of air pollution, or are disproportionately exposed to it. The relationships between air pollution and health inequities are multiple and complex, but striving to have air that is healthy for all to breathe means looking for ways to understand and address these inequities.

Young white child standing on hill in forestClean air means healthier ecosystems

Air pollution affects the ecosystems that Minnesotans value. Pollutants in our air reduce visibility, creating a haze that can affect scenic views in pristine places such as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Voyageurs National Park, as well as in our urban areas.

Minnesota’s lakes and streams can be harmed by air pollution that causes acid rain, and fish can be affected by mercury that settles out of the air and into the water. In addition, emissions of greenhouse gases contribute to climate change, which will cause significant changes to Minnesota’s ecosystems in the years to come. Reducing air pollution means protecting the wild places we enjoy and the plants and animals that inhabit them.

Clean air means a stronger economyLatino machine worker wearing yellow vest

Cleaner air and a growing economy can go hand in hand. Since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, emissions of common air pollutants in the U.S. have dropped 70 percent while the U.S. gross domestic product has grown nearly 250 percent.

The money spent on reducing pollution in Minnesota often stays in Minnesota. Companies that design, install, maintain, and operate pollution-reducing processes and equipment create thousands of high-paying green jobs in engineering, manufacturing, construction, materials, operation, and maintenance.

Cleaner air protects the fish and natural places that many Minnesotans rely on for their livelihoods. Air pollution can also cause damage to crops and forests. Clear skies, edible fish, and healthy crop and forest land are critical to Minnesota’s economy.

Because cleaner air also improves our health, having good air quality means fewer missed work and school days and less spending on air pollution-related illness. We estimate the overall economic cost of health effects associated with exposure to current levels of air pollution in Minnesota may exceed $30 billion per year.

Cleaner air means a strong, diverse economy for all Minnesotans.

Want the full report?

PDF icon The air we breathe 2017