Clean Air Act Turns 40

Mike Schuler
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September 24, 2010

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, a landmark piece of legislation signed by President Richard Nixon that has led to significant environmental and public health benefits across the United States.  With the culmination of Pollution Prevention Week tomorrow, Sept. 25th, we are reminded of what we can do to prevent pollution in our everyday lives and the maritime shipping industries dedication to reduce harmful emmissions through innovation and technology.

In a keynote address delivered to Congress and other state and local officials, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson states:

“Since 1970 we have seen a steady trajectory of less pollution in our communities and greater economic opportunity throughout our nation. We will continue those trends as we face the clean air challenges of the next 40 years, including working to cut greenhouse gases and grow the American clean energy economy. The Clean Air Act proves the naysayers wrong – we can protect our health and environment at the same time we grow our economy.”

Here are just a few key statistics that have resulted from the Clean Air Act over the past 40 years.

The first 20 years of Clean Air Act programs, from 1970 to 1990, prevented:

* 205,000 premature deaths
* 672,000 cases of chronic bronchitis
* 21,000 cases of heart disease
* 843,000 asthma attacks
* 189,000 cardiovascular hospitalizations
* 10.4 million lost I.Q. points in children – from lead reductions
* 18 million child respiratory illnesses

This year is also of particular importance because it also marks the 20th anniversary of the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, the revised act that calls for reducing pollution at its source, leading to better air quality and better health protection.  As a result of the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, from 1990 thru 2008, emissions of six common pollutants are down 41%, while gross domestic product has grown 64%. Emissions of volatile organic compounds have dropped 31%, carbon monoxide dropped 46% and sulfur dioxide dropped 51%.

* Data from 2006-2008 show ozone air quality improved in 95 of the 126 areas designated to be in nonattainment for the ozone air quality standards.
* Nearly the entire country is meeting air quality targets set years ago for carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.
* Lead levels in ambient air are 92% lower than in 1980, greatly reducing the number of children with IQs below 70 as a result of dirty air.
* Preliminary EPA analysis shows that in 2010, Clean Air Act fine particles and ozone programs implemented since the 1990 Amendments will prevent more than 160,000 premature deaths. In addition, the economic value of the air quality improvements is estimated to reach almost $2 trillion for the year 2020, a value which vastly exceeds the costs of efforts to comply with the 1990 Clean Air Act and related programs.

[Source: EPA]



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