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How Many Breaths Do You Take Each Day?

2014 April 28

By Ann Brown

Map of U.S. with color-coded air quality index

It’s Air Quality Awareness Week!

Watching the news and the problems that some countries are having with high levels of air pollution makes me appreciate the Clean Air Act, which calls on EPA and the states to protect air quality through programs based on the latest science and technology. I am especially appreciative today, the first day of Air Quality Awareness Week.

When I joined EPA’s Office of Research and Development 16 years ago, I didn’t think much about the quality of the air I breathe. I took it for granted. It is an unlimited supply. I don’t have to pay a monthly bill for it. It is just there for the benefit of my body.

Then as I began to work with scientists and engineers conducting air research at EPA, I gained an appreciation for this precious resource.  Their research showed me why it is important to know what is in the air, how you can be exposed to any pollutants it contains, and what the related risks and health effects might be. I’ve also learned about their work on advancing control technologies to reduce air pollution. EPA scientists are working in all these areas to provide the science that can be used to protect air quality.

The average person takes between 17,280 and 23,040 breaths a day. That is a lot of breaths…and each one is an opportunity to put pollutants into your lungs and body and to increase health risks if you are exposed to air pollution. For example:

  • Research shows that air pollution is linked to health effects and disease, including heart disease and stroke. EPA is a partner in the Million Hearts initiative to educate the public, especially those with heart disease, about the dangers of air pollution to their health. You can learn more about air pollution and heart disease at www.epagov/healthyheart.
  • Air pollution can cause or worsen asthma. Extensive research links asthma to ozone, particle pollution and a host of common indoor environmental asthma triggers. Join EPA experts to discuss asthma and outdoor air pollution on a Twitter chat on May 1 at 2 p.m. (Eastern Time) on @EPALive. Use the hashtag #asthma.

Air quality awareness week is a good time to learn what you can do to protect your health and the health of your friends and family. Many resources are available to learn about air quality and how to protect your health. A good start is to use the Air Quality Index where you can get daily local air quality reports and information to protect your health from air pollution.

Scientists continue to investigate air quality to protect our health and the environment. I’m glad to be a small part of this effort. Learn more about what scientists are doing at www.epa.gov/airscience.

About the author: Ann Brown is the communications lead for EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. Arman.- permalink
    April 28, 2014

    Crisis In The Earth.-

    Ms. Brown,

    If we average a person 20.000 breaths a day, how many people could infect by high levels of air pollution ? OMG, you give me a real scare!

  2. Paidamoyo Chihambakwe permalink
    May 2, 2014

    That is very interesting and very scary. Normally we are too busy looking at how pollution will affect the environment that we barely take the time to look at how it affects us.
    My question is don’t humans then play a significant part in global warming because of the rapidly increasing population rates and the amount of breaths that each human takes everyday. If more than a billion people are taking roughly 20000 breathes of air then a large amount of carbon dioxide is being released into the air, which is probably only speeding up global warming. Are there any possible solutions we can come with to minimize the impact?

    • Matthew permalink
      May 14, 2014

      Top 5 things you can do today to minimize the impact

      1) Plant trees
      2) Mow your lawn less. Older mowers emit 11 times more pollution than modern vehicles.
      3) Pump your gas at night.
      4) Reduce home and office heating and cooling demands.
      5) Tell a friend or family member about the above 4 things!

  3. grace permalink
    September 17, 2014

    isnt it 28 thousand something?

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