EPA's Report on the Environment (ROE)
Clean air sustains human, animal, and plant life on Earth, and the composition of trace gases in the atmosphere plays an important role in affecting the climate. Air pollution can adversely affect critical functions of the atmosphere in many ways:
- Air pollution, whether indoors or outdoors, is associated with a number of human health effects, including heart attacks, asthma attacks, bronchitis, hospital and emergency room visits, work and school days lost, restricted activity days, respiratory symptoms, and premature mortality.
- Certain types of outdoor air pollution can impair visibility and, when deposited on the Earth's surface through rain and other processes, damage other valued resources, such as forests, lakes and streams, and building surfaces.
- On a global scale, air pollution can change the atmosphere's composition with important consequences, including depletion of the Earth's ozone layer and climate change.
EPA's mission is to protect human health and the environment. Improving air quality in order to avoid or mitigate the consequences of air pollution's harmful effects is an important part of accomplishing this mission.
The ROE air indicators address three fundamental questions:
- What are the trends in outdoor air quality and their effects on human health and the environment? This question examines the quality of air that people breathe at ground level, deposition of air pollutants to land and water, and depletion of the Earth's ozone layer.
- What are the trends in greenhouse gas emissions and concentrations and their impacts on human health and the environment? This question focuses on releases and atmospheric concentrations of certain “greenhouse gases” (i.e., gases in the atmosphere that help regulate the Earth's temperature and thus contribute to climate change), as well as their impacts on human health and the environment.
- What are the trends in indoor air quality and their effects on human health? This question considers air quality in indoor settings, such as homes, offices, and schools, and how poor indoor air quality can affect human health and welfare.