University of Southern California The USC Andrew and Erna Viterbi School of Engineering

Impact of Air Pollution on Health 

Air pollution is made up of many kinds of gases and particulates that reduce air quality. Depending on the level of exposure, air pollution can irritate the eyes, throat, and lungs which can lead to forms of respiratory disease or cancer. Air pollution at current urban levels have substantial but preventable acute and chronic adverse effects on children's respiratory health including lung function development, and the development, progression, and exacerbation of asthma and respiratory allergy.

Researchers at the USC Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center are studying the impact of air pollution on cardiorespiratory health by exploring its relation to cancer, respiratory disease, and adverse reproductive outcomes. New critical areas of interest include studying the effects of complex mixtures of air pollutants that co-occur with recognized harmful pollutants. Recently, it has been recognized that air pollutant research needs to be conducted in a multipollutant context that accounts for variation in the complex mixture of air pollution. Beyond considering these complex environmental exposures, there is new knowledge about pathophysiologic mechanisms and new indicators of susceptibility are emerging, including social and behavioral factors, epigenetic profiles and obesity, all of which need to be assessed in the context of exposure and other established susceptibility factors such as health status and genetic variation.

These research findings have contributed to the scientific basis for national air pollution regulations and have been communicated through community and education outreach activities to communities, regulators, legislators and public health and clinical decision-makers.



  • Asses how air pollution contributes to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in humans.
  • Learn how host factors (genetic, epigenetic, health status, obesity, and other social and behavioral factors) affect risk.
  • Epidemiological studies on children's health and exposure to pollution.


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