Air Pollution is Harming our Lungs

Climate change is exacerbating respiratory health issues, especially for those with lung conditions. Heatwaves, wildfires, and floods are increasing airborne particles and humidity, worsening breathing difficulties. Experts are urgently calling for lower greenhouse gas emissions and stricter air-pollution limits to protect vulnerable populations. A report in the European Respiratory Journal highlights how climate change’s effects, such as extreme weather events, will intensify breathing problems, particularly affecting babies, children, and the elderly. The European Respiratory Society, representing over 30,000 lung specialists, is urging global governments and the European Parliament to take immediate action.

The report notes that higher temperatures lead to increased airborne allergens like pollen. More frequent extreme weather events like heatwaves, droughts, and wildfires result in extreme air pollution and dust storms. Heavy rainfall and flooding contribute to higher humidity and mould in homes. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that nearly every person on Earth breathes air below quality standards, causing respiratory and blood-flow problems and millions of preventable deaths annually. The World Meteorological Organization reported 2023 as the hottest June on record, with predictions of even hotter future weather.

Dr Sharenja Ratnakumar, a researcher from Breathing Matters and respiratory medicine specialist, emphasized that climate change’s impact on health outcomes is becoming increasingly apparent. Studies show convincing links between climate change, air pollution, and the progression of respiratory, cardiovascular, and cancer diseases.  She said, “As clinicians, we understand from direct patient care that individuals are struggling to cope with the increasing frequency and intensity of heatwaves compounded further by fuel poverty in the winters.”

The European Respiratory Society is calling for ambitious new air quality standards to replace outdated regulations. Dr Ratnakumar emphasizes the need for acknowledgment and consensus to collectively tackle climate change’s healthcare challenges, underscoring the importance of WHO’s air pollution guidelines and updated air quality thresholds. She said, “There clearly needs to be greater buy-in from all members of society to make the shift change needed to tackle this very real problem.”

Breathing Matters are looking into research into the impact of air borne pollutants and global warming on lung health.


[Full article, South China Morning Post, 26.9.23]

Sign up to receive our news and updates

  • This form collects your name and email address so that we can keep you updated with news and information about Breathing Matters. Please check our Privacy Policy to see how we protect and manage your data.

Where there's research there's hope

Research into respiratory conditions accounts for just 2% of all the medical research funding in the UK.

Will you support respiratory research?