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Clean Cars, Air Pollution, and Human Health

Air pollution from our cars and trucks is harmful to human health. By burning less oil—and releasing less pollution—clean cars benefit the health of our families, communities, and environment.

Air pollution negatively impacts human health.

Air pollution has serious implications for public health and safety. Poor air quality increases respiratory ailments like asthma and bronchitis, heightens the risk of life-threatening conditions like cancer, and burdens our health care system with substantial medical costs.

According to EPA estimates, more than 150 million people in the United States live in areas that violate at least one of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for six health-based “criteria pollutants,” which include ozone, lead, and fine particulate matter.

The health risks of these pollutants are substantial—fine particulate matter alone is responsible for up to 30,000 premature deaths each year.

Learn more about air pollution >

Transportation is the largest single source of air pollution in the United States.

If we reduce vehicle pollutants, we can significantly enhance air quality, improve public health, and save billions of dollars in health care costs.

Fortunately, clean vehicle and fuel technologies—such as electric vehicles, fuel efficiency improvements, and biofuels—provide us with an affordable, available means of reducing transportation-related air pollution.

Learn more about clean vehicle and fuel technologies >

There’s less pollution than there used to be, but it’s still too much.

Vehicle emission standards have reduced pollution from cars and trucks by about 90 percent since the 1970s, a remarkable success story that has resulted in cleaner air, improved public health, and billions of dollars in taxpayer savings for health care costs.

Unfortunately, we drive many more miles than we used to, and new health research shows us that more must be done to protect our families from the dangers of air pollution. 

Learn more about recent policy >

Trucks and buses are disproportionately heavy polluters.

Medium- and heavy-duty trucks account for only 7 percent of all vehicles on U.S. highways, yet consume more than 28 percent of all oil used on the road.

This remarkable inefficiency generates around a quarter of the nation’s smog-causing pollution. Diesel fuel is largely responsible; cleaner diesel and improved vehicle designs can substantially reduce these impacts and further enhance recent successful efforts to lower diesel emissions.

Learn more about trucks and fuel efficiency >

Clean cars reduce air pollution.

Clean cars burn less fuel than other vehicles, produce fewer airborne pollutants, and have the potential to significantly improve air quality.

Vehicles that run on cleaner fuels like electricity, hydrogen, and clean biofuels generate even fewer pollutants, improving air quality even more.

Pursuing policies that encourage clean vehicles results in less air pollution, reduced oil use, and a better economy.

Learn more about the benefits of clean cars and reduced oil use >

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