The Right to Breathe

50 States United For Healthy Air

On May 13–16, 2013, doctors, nurses, faith and tribal leaders, social justice advocates and affected citizens from all 50 states convened in Washington, D.C. to send a powerful message: Everyone has the right to breathe clean, healthy air.

This legion of Clean Air Ambassadors met with members of Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Obama administration to call for greater protections from smog, coal ash, carbon and other dangerous air pollutants.

Learn more.

Historic Victory For Clean Air

Marti Blake points at the coal-fired power plant that dominates the view from her living room, just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)
"Nobody is put on this earth to live in filth and to breathe the filth. With our technologies today? We're not living back in the 18th century."
– Marti Blake, lives across from a coal-fired power plant

The Environmental Protection Agency has released standards that will clean up toxic air emissions from power plants across the nation, thanks in no small part to years of Earthjustice attorney James Pew's determined litigation on behalf of community, environmental and public health groups.

Coal plants are far and away the nation's worst toxic polluters. Every year, the pollution causes exacerbated asthma, heart problems, hospital visits—and premature death, especially among vulnerable populations like children, the elderly and people with asthma.

Read Feature: In The Shadow Of A Smokestack

Report : Sick Of Soot

Congress: Take Action
Earthjustice, Clean Air Task Force and the American Lung Association released the report Sick of Soot in November 2011. The report summarizes the findings of a technical report showing that nearly 36,000 premature deaths could be prevented in the U.S. every year if the Environmental Protection Agency strengthens the health standards for soot pollution.

Read Sick of Soot to learn about fine particulate matter and how both short- and long-term exposure is dangerous to public health.

Video Playlist

Clean air should be a fundamental right. Every year, many Americans young and old get sick because of air pollution. Thousands die. But our bodies don't have to be the dumping ground for dirty industries.

Watch videos: Air Watch, Asthma Feels, The Right To Breathe and In The Shadow Of The Stacks.

The Economics of Air Pollution

Terrible air pollution.

Our lives and health depend on clean air—the Clean Air Act's health protections saved the lives of 160,000 people last year. But it turns out that clean air is a sound economic investment, too. The Environmental Protection Agency recently completed a study that estimates direct benefits from amendments made to the Clean Air Act in 1990—the ones that require toxic polluters like cement kilns and coal plants to limit their dangerous emissions—will reach nearly $2 trillion in the year 2020. That amounts to more than 30 times the costs of implementing clean air protections.

Moreover, studies have shown that improving air quality is an engine of economic growth. A study from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, for example, found that cleaning up air pollution from coal-fired power plants could create 290,000 jobs on average in each of the next five years. No matter how you look at it, clean air makes a whole lot of sense.

Take Action

Power plant.
Help protect everyone's right to breathe clean air. Here's what you can do:

Is The Air Clean Enough For You And Your Family?
  [ U.S. Residents Only ]    A large majority of Americans want and expect the EPA to protect them from dirty air. They are saying that everybody has a right to breathe clean air. Will you ask your members of Congress to join us in making the Clean Air Promise?

When Polluters Lose, Clean Air Should Win
There should be no more delay in cleaning up dirty industries. Please take a moment to write President Obama and tell him that protecting clean air standards and moving toward a clean energy future are important to you!

Tell Your Senators Why Clean Air Is Important To You
Air pollution doesn't recognize borders, ethnicity, or class. Our breathing is a bipartisan issue, upon which all political parties should agree. Contact your senators today!

Featured Stories

When our elected officials continue standing in the way of clean air and water—it’s time to shake things up. Which is why more than a hundred physicians, tribal and labor leaders, clergy, nurses and parents traveled to Washington, D.C. to send a powerful message: Everyone has a right to breathe clean, healthy air.
More than one hundred citizens came from every state in the Union—and from many of its most polluted places—with a message for every legislator in Washington, D.C.: Industry is killing us with poisons they put into our air, our water, our communities.
Members of the public shared personal and emotional testimony at a public hearing in downtown Sacramento focused on EPA's recent proposal to further limit emissions of deadly air pollution.
"It's like hell. Living in hell," says Marti Blake, as she points at the coal-fired power plant that dominates the view from her living room, in Springdale, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. "It's filthy, it's dirty, it's noisy, it's unhealthy."
Up to 35,700 premature deaths can be prevented in the United States every year if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strengthens the health standards for fine particulate matter—also known as soot—according to this report, Sick of Soot: How the EPA Can Save Lives by Cleaning Up Fine Particle Pollution, prepared by the American Lung Association, Clean Air Task Force and Earthjustice.
Coal-fired power plants are the nation's worst toxic air polluters. The pollution from these plants have serious impacts on health—including causing premature death. Hear from attorney Jim Pew, who has worked for more than a decade to clean up coal plants.
Every time you blow out a candle. Every time you blow a bubble. You declare the right to breathe. Air pollution threatens that right. The Clean Air Act defends it. Everyone has the right to breathe.
Take Action! The Environmental Protection Agency offers strong words in pledging "unwavering pursuit of environmental justice." Now it’s time for strong action to back up those words by strengthening its regulation of toxic air from oil refineries.
For the past decade, Tom Frantz has been documenting pollution sources in California's Central Valley. His words and pictures have led to improvements in air quality—improvements that the EPA can further increase by strengthening fine particle air pollution standards.
Millions of Americans suffer from asthma; however, most people don't know how brutal it is to live with the disease. Breathing is a fundamental right, yet everyday air pollution is affecting millions of Americans' Right to Breathe.
Coal plant pollution has a serious impact on health: every year, it causes exacerbated asthma, heart problems, hospital visits, days when people miss work and school, and worst of all, premature death. See a photo slideshow of two Pennsylvanians who live next door to a coal-fired power plant.
Earthjustice litigation recently closed a gaping air pollution loophole known as the startup, shutdown, and malfunction exemption, which allowed industrial facilities to blanket nearby communities with toxic air pollution, all without warning or accountability.
The Clean Air Act has substantially improved the lives of millions of Americans. Polluting industries have fought progress every step of the way. To protect your right to breathe, Earthjustice is working to ensure polluting industries don’t stand in the way of clean air protections.
Earthjustice Campaign Director Jared Saylor talked about our work on the breathing crisis in America and our campaign to rid communities of the poisons forced on them by industry.
Dr. Hightower, a board certified internal medicine physician in California, published a landmark study that brought the issue of mercury in seafood to national attention. She spoke with Earthjustice supporters and answered some commonly-asked questions about mercury in our food supply.