Health Impacts

Lightrail DowntownThe Sacramento region is one of America’s most polluted metropolitan areas, and that means negative health impacts for all of us. Our children and elderly are hit especially hard.

While we’ve made great progress cleaning our air, health impacts linked to air pollution – such as asthma – are still dramatic here. Our region does not meet federal standards for ozone – let alone tougher state standards – and is not expected to meet them for tiny, lung-damaging particles or soot.

Some facts to consider about the consequences of air pollution:


  • More than 200,000 adults in the Sacramento region were estimated to have been diagnosed with asthma at some time in their lives, according to 2003 state Department of Health Services estimates. That’s more people than live in the city of Elk Grove.
  • More than 100,000 of the region’s children and adolescents were estimated to have experienced asthma at some point. That’s more than the number of students enrolled in the Sacramento City and San Juan school districts combined.
  • A quarter of Sacramento County households currently have an asthma sufferer, according to county health department estimates.

Premature Death

  • Statewide, premature deaths linked to small or “fine” particles like diesel soot are now at levels comparable to deaths from traffic accidents and tobacco smoke, according to 2004 California Air Resources Board estimates. These premature deaths reportedly shorten lives by an average of 14 years.
  • A 2002 National Institutes of Health study of 500,000 people found long-term exposure to air pollution in big cities significantly raises risks of dying from lung cancer, and is about as dangerous as living with a smoker – a 16 to 24 percent increase.
  • Sacramento County has increased incidence of lung cancer mortality compared to the rest of California, according to the county’s health department.

Growth and Development Problems

  • By age 18, the lungs of many children who grow up in smoggy areas are underdeveloped and will likely never recover, according to findings of the 10-year government Children’s Health Study.
  • Studies suggest that multisport athletes in high-ozone areas are more likely to get asthma than in areas with healthier air.

For more information on the health impacts of air pollution, please review our FAQ’s below.