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The Clean Air Act & Its Impact on Air Quality Today

Clean Air Act (CAA) & Its Impact on Air Quality Today

Emissions play a significant role in environmental and human health. Signed in 1970 under President Richard Nixon, the Clean Air Act was an essential step toward creating a cleaner, healthier air. This article will discuss the impact of this legislative milestone. 

On December 31, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act (CAA). The CAA, termed by many as landmark legislation, aimed to nurture the growth of the American economy while improving human and environmental health. Twenty years after its passing, the CAA has prevented an estimated 200,000 premature fatalities and nearly 700,000 incidences of chronic bronchitis.

Significance of the CAA

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a U.S. agency tasked with setting and enforcing pollution standards nationally. The passing of the CAA gave the EPA the necessary power to take productive action against environmental pollution. Under the CAA, the EPA offers guidelines on specific air pollutants by setting the limits on the permissible levels within the United States. These limits include emissions from different sources, including steel mills, chemical manufacturing plants, and utility companies.

The 1990 Amendments

In 1990, the Clean Air Act, (CAA) was revised, amended, and passed into law by President George H.W. Bush. The amendments, signed on November 15, 1990, had immense bipartisan support and paved the way for solving significant threats facing the environment. More specifically, the amendments aimed to curb four existential threats to the health of the American population: urban air pollution, stratospheric ozone depletion, acid rain, and toxic air emissions. Additionally, the amendments established a program to issue national operating permits to strengthen the law’s implementation.

Impact of the CAA on Lung Health

Since its legislation, the CAA has had monumental positive impacts on people’s lung health. The reduction in total emissions has led to considerable improvements in air quality. In the 27 years between 1990 and 2017, national levels of air pollutants have improved by 88 percent for sulfur dioxide, 80 percent for lead, 77 percent for carbon monoxide, and 22 percent for ozone. Fine and coarse particle concentrations have also improved by 40 and 34 percent, respectively.

These improvements in air quality have allowed many country areas to meet the established quality standards. For instance, all 41 regions with unhealthy carbon monoxide levels in 1991 have now completed national-standard air quality levels. These levels are largely due to the CAA emission standards for new vehicles that ensure a much cleaner fleet. Because of the CAA, Americans now breathe less pollution and face fewer risks of adverse lung health complications and premature deaths.

Impact of the CAA on Public Health

According to a peer-reviewed study published by the EPA in March 2011, the 1990 CAA amendments have achieved great public health benefits. According to different parameters examined in the study, the overall findings showed people have better life quality. Issues such as asthma exacerbations, E.R. visits, restricted activity days, and hospital admissions have decreased significantly. As the program continues to grow, the full effects of the program are set to take full effect and bear more fruit.

Impact of the CAA on Environmental Health

It’s not just people who are reaping the benefits of the CAA. The environment has also witnessed a significant improvement. Air pollution impacts plants and deteriorates soil nutrients that are critical in sustaining ecosystems. Aquatic ecosystems also suffer from air pollutants as nitrogen enrichment in coastal areas results in oxygen depletion, directly harming marine species. Conversely, lower air pollution levels benefit multiple ecosystems, allowing them to flourish in their natural habitats.

The Financial Impact of the CAA

Cleaner air translates to fewer air-pollution-linked illnesses. In turn, the government spends less on medical treatments. Better lung health also means lower absenteeism among workers. These two improvements account alone sufficiently offset the expenses for pollution control. In ensuring better overall human health, the CAA directly ensures better economic health.

The Clean Air Act (CAA) Successes

The Clean Air Act has been a lifesaver in literal terms. Since its inception 50 years ago, its impact has been undeniable. In many ways, the CAA acted as the catalyst for improving people’s quality of life. It goes to show the effects sound environmental policies can have on society. However, even with the successes of the CAA, there is still much more that needs to be done to continue to breathe safe and healthy air.

Get Your Indoor Air Quality Assessment Today

The goal of Phase Associates is to offer safe, healthy and effective indoor air quality testing, sampling, surveys, assessments and monitoring. We evaluate air conditioning, ventilation and heating systems, find the sources of irritants, monitor for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), fumes and dust, take microbial contaminant samples to find bacteria, mold and, fungus and more. We also test if and where the outdoor air is the source of the problem. Lastly, we provide a solution and recommendations for the removal and remediation of all contaminants.

Contact us to learn more about our indoor air quality testing services in NJ, NY, PA, CT, and Delaware. We do service other states, so if your state is not here, still contact us.