Unbreathable: The Fight for Healthy Air

Unbreathable: The Fight for Healthy Air spotlights the ongoing struggle for clean air in the United States.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
30 mins
Closed captioning available Audio description available
Remote video URL


Unbreathable: The Fight for Healthy Air is a timely, powerful look at fifty years of the Clean Air Act and the challenges we still face to ensure healthy air for everyone. Weaving historical milestones with current day stories of environmental injustice, the film is an excellent tool for educational and community engagement.

Currently available streaming only.

Featured review

A powerful and important film about one of modern America's most consequential laws.
Beth Gardiner
author, Choked


Unbreathable: The Fight for Healthy Air is a 30-minute film that weaves historical milestones of one the nation’s most critical health laws, the Clean Air Act, with current day stories of environmental injustice and community action. Nearly half of all Americans still live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution, particularly those in poorer communities. Asthma is the number one health issue for children in the U.S today. Recent research links air pollution to higher cases and deaths from COVID-19. Yet, environmental regulations and the enforcement of existing laws are being stripped away.

Directed and executive produced by award-winning filmmaker Maggie Burnette Stogner and produced by Elizabeth Herzfeldt-Kamprath, Unbreathable was made with support from the American Lung Association, AU’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking, AU’s Center for Environmental Policy, and the Hanley Foundation. Tax-deductible fiscal sponsor: American University.


Just watched! Excellent, fabulous, important work!
Sandy Cannon-Brown
Director, Chesapeake Film Festival
Maggie Stogner's film Unbreathable traces the history--and mixed successes--of the Clean Air Act, showing that this legal framework still has not addressed the racially disparate nature of air pollution. The case study on Louisiana's Cancer Alley focusing on the role of the state's powerful oil and gas industry in thwarting the implementation of clean air standards, and effects on low-income Black residents, was especially instructive as a teaching tool for my course on Environmental Justice.
Malini Ranganathan
PhD (she/her/hers) Associate Professor, Associate Professor and Interim Director, Antiracist Research and Policy Center American University, Washington, DC

Awards and Screenings

United Nations Association Film Festival, 2021
NEWF's COP26 Climate Crisis Film Festival, Africa, 2021
Environmental Film Festival of the Nation's Capital, New Day Showcase, 2021
United States Climate Action Network conference, 2021
Impact Docs: Award of Merit: Documentary Short, 2020
Impact Docs: Award of Merit: Contemporary Issues / Awareness Raising, 2020
Impact Docs: Award of Merit: Health / Medicine / Science, 2020

Director Commentary

Visiting my grandparents in Los Angeles when I was a child, I remember the thick smog that burned my eyes and how rare it was to get a glimpse of the mountains. The Clean Air Act has been critical to reducing car, truck, factory, and other toxic emissions. Yet the laws are not enforced equally and the health effects are devasting. We take over 20,000 breaths a day, but the air we breathe is increasingly at risk. Over half of Americans live in areas with unhealthy air, while environmental laws are being rolled back; global warming is causing the rise of fires, droughts, and other pressures; and COVID-19 is linked to higher rates of death in areas with air pollution. Unbreathable is the most urgent film I’ve ever made. My goal is that it will help inform, inspire, and provide a catalyst for educational and community engagement that can and will make a difference.

*To host a screening, please email: events@unbreathable.org for more information.

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Audio Description
  • Closed Captioning
  • Resources for Educators

Film/Audio Languages

  • Spanish

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

Resources for Educators

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