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Air Pollution impacts everyone.

The World Health Organization calls air pollution the fifth-largest cause of death globally and “one of the biggest environmental threats to human health”. Each year, it is responsible for between 4 and 5 million deaths worldwide.

In 2019, air pollution caused almost 200,000 deaths in the United States—more than stroke, Alzheimer’s, or diabetes. While the US has achieved control over air pollutants like lead, the deaths caused by air pollution today result from exposure to microscopic airborne particles called PM2.5. These pollutants are formed by the burning of gas, oil, and coal and cause heart attacks, stroke, chronic lung disease, asthma, and premature death. PM2.5 causes stillbirth, low birth weight, and IQ loss in children.

Disease and death caused by PM2.5 pollution can be prevented. Prevention will require courageous political action that is informed by science and stops pollution at its sources.

We encourage you to explore this website to learn about PM2.5 pollution and its health effects, and to find out how you can protect yourself, your family, and your community against air pollution.

How does PM2.5 impact Massachusetts?

That’s the question we’ve been working on for the last 2 years. Combining our own research, an extensive lit review, and a partnership with Harvard Medical School, we estimated the annual impact of PM2.5 on every town in Massachusetts. Use the tool below to view your town!

Explore the Map to learn about the Health Effect of Air Pollution in your Town!

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Interested in learning how these estimates were calculated?

 View the Study

State-wide Health Statistics


Tons of PM2.5 emitted in MA in 2019


Estimated number of deaths due to PM2.5 in MA in 2019


   Estimated number of underweight births due to PM2.5 in MA in 2019

2 Million

   Provisionally estimated number of IQ points lost due to PM2.5 in MA in 2019*

*Provisional estimate is subject to change and further scientific review


How does PM2.5 affect me?

PM2.5 is a type of air pollution that impacts everybody. However, the risks air pollution poses to your livelihood differ for every society, community, demographic, and person. Explore the boxes below to see the threat air pollution poses to you and what you can do about it.


People Aged 65 and Older

Age is one of the largest risk factors for air pollution-related illnesses, and it is very important for people 65 and older to be wary of their PM2.5 exposure. Preventive measures include monitoring air quality, wearing protective masks, and limiting outdoor exercise on days when pollution is high.


Kids shouldn’t have to worry about the health effects from the air they breathe. But unfortunately, these dangers are real. Therefore parents and teachers need to limit children’s vigorous outdoor play outdoors on bad air days and in polluted locations near factories and along major roadways.


PM2.5 exposure can cause life-long asthma and IQ loss in children under 10, so it’s important for parents and caretakers to know how to avoid air pollution. Our tips: watch air quality advisory notices, don’t gather around car tailpipes, and advocate for strong policies in your town!

People of Color

Studies at all levels (local, state, national, and international) have found people of color are at greater risk of PM2.5 exposure. For local and state disparities, there are nonprofits in Massachusetts that work with environmental justice cases. Find more information in the articles below.

People with Underlying Conditions

People with underlying conditions are more likely to experience disease and death due to PM2.5 exposure. This is especially true for pre-existing respiratory conditions. For example, people with COPD are much more likely to experience difficulty breathing than the rest of the population.

The General Public

Air pollution impacts everyone, even those who consider themselves perfectly healthy. Effects such as lost IQ or increased difficulty breathing may seem small, but their lasting nature is nothing but insignificant.