Was the Clean Air Act successful?

In this blog post, we will discuss “Was the Clean Air Act successful?” Firstly, the article will discuss the information of the Clean Air Act. Then, the success of the Clean Air Act will be outlined, followed by this. Additionally, the article will also throw light on the improvement of this Act. In the end, this will provide comprehensive solutions to mitigate air pollution.

Was the Clean Air Act successful?

The Clean Air Act or CAA is one of the most powerful and successful environmental laws in the history of the United States. The Clean Air Act primarily did the following:

  • 70% Reduced the six criteria air pollutants (O3, NO2, CO, SO2, lead, particulate matter)
  • Benefited the economy of the nation
  • Improvement in human health and environmental resources
  • Before dwelling on this further, let’s briefly talk about air pollution.

Air pollution is the introduction of toxic contaminants in the atmosphere. These contaminants can be solid particles, gaseous pollutants or liquid droplets.

Air pollution has shaken the balance of our ecosystem. Since the stone age, humankind has always strived hard to achieve stability and comfort in their life. Finally, we succeeded, which led to the industrial revolution, followed by urbanization and much-needed changes in the lifestyle.

However, in the process of progression, somewhere we left behind the great values of nature, we forgot the support and symbiotic existence of the environment. While human inventions, no doubt, have always helped us to save our lives, it has also given birth to much inevitable stuff. One such thing is air pollution.

The ever-growing menace of air pollution has also created other challenges such as global warming, greenhouse effect and climate change. These challenges have affected the whole world greatly.

Now, let’s see what the Clean Air Act is all about.

What is Clean Air Act?

The Clean Air Act or CAA is the broad federal law valid to control air emissions from stationary and mobile sources such as industries, the energy sector and transport. This law empowers the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect the health and welfare of the people residing in America. They also monitor the emissions of toxic air pollutants.

In 1955, the Air Pollution Control Act was the first federal legislation that included the issues related to air pollution. This Act provided funds for official research in this challenge. The Clean Air Act of 1963 was the first federal legislation focused on air pollution control. It started a national program within the US Public Health Service and official research team, which comprised monitoring techniques and measures to control Air Pollution.

Further, in 1967 the Air Quality Act was enforced to expand federal government activities. This law mainly focused on interstate air pollution transport. The government extensively conducted ambient monitoring studies and stationary source inspections in this process. Besides, the Air Quality Act of 1967 legalized the extended investigations of air pollution emission inventories, ambient air monitoring methods and control techniques.

However, in 1970, the enactment of the Clean Air Act led to a significant shift in the federal government’s role in air pollution control. President Richard Nixon signed this Act on 31 December 1970. This Act, no doubt, became America’s significant law.

This federal law legalized expanding federal and state regulations to control emissions from stationary and mobile sources. The stationary sources included all industries emitting toxic emissions, and mobile sources meant vehicles in the transportation sector.

Thus, four major regulatory programs limit emissions from stationary sources. These are as follows:

  • National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)
  • State Implementation Plans (SIPs)
  • New Source Performance Standards (NSPS)
  • National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs)

Moreover, the enforcement authority was further considerably expanded. Simultaneously, around the same time, the National Environmental Policy Act formed the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). The EPA was formed to implement the Clean Air Act and various other requirements. 

Now, let’s see whether this Act was a success or a failure.

How was the Clean Air Act Effective?

In the first half of the 20th century, industries and factories were deteriorating the nation’s air quality. This was because of the fewer regulations in the laws. Escalating emission levels led to a rise in respiratory ailments such as emphysema and asthma. In addition, the smog conditions cost hundreds of deaths and tremendous economic losses. In case you don’t know, smog is a condition where toxic pollutants such as ground-level ozone and particulate matter are trapped at the surface of the Earth and cause visibility issues.

The rising sulphur emissions from the power plants also led to acid rain. These acid rains affected the productivity of the crops too. Understanding the increasing air pollution as a crisis, the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970. It was further made stringent in 1977. Additionally, further amendments were made in 1990.  

This year would mark as 51st anniversary of the Clean Air Act. This Act’s implementation has turned into a boon for the United States. It has turned into one of the most successful laws implemented in American History. This Act, along with EPA, significantly reduced air pollution in the Country.

Statistics say that around 70% of the emissions have been reduced over the past 50 years. The improving air quality has steadily increased the life expectancy of millions of Americans. Moreover, the Clean Air Act has successfully saved the greenbacks from disappearing in the sky. Economists observed that the financial conditions of America significantly improved after the implementation of the CAA.

Between 1990 and 2018, the levels of harmful chemicals have dropped drastically. There have been limits set on the dangerous toxic yet common air pollutants like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. The United Nations Environmental Programme has also noticed that levels of carbon monoxide dropped by 74%, whereas ground-level ozone declined by 21%. Additionally, lead has decreased by 82% from 2010. The drop in the lead levels prevented children’s loss of between two and four IQ points.

By 2020, the US EPA has estimated that the Act prevented over 230,000 premature deaths. Moreover, respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis and asthma also decreased. Besides, many environmental resources have benefits due to reduced levels of air pollutants. For example, the soil quality in the States have improved; the water bodies and vegetation have also enhanced.

In terms of the economic front, the Act’s enforcement has only boosted the nation’s economy more. The implementation of the Act cost about US$65 billion. But its measures and laws have saved much more money for the citizens. For example, the improved air quality increased work productivity and reduced medical bills. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that around US$2trillion in benefits.   

Paul Billings, a senior vice president at the American Lung Association, proclaimed that the Clean Air Act had been the most powerful environmental law of the twentieth century. He further pointed out that the lawmakers drafted the Act considering the future evolution of scientific and technological advances, proving to be a hit formula.

But despite the success of the Clean Air Act in controlling common pollutants, air pollution continues to be our single most considerable environmental health risk today. There is much more to achieve—around 60,000 Americans face premature deaths due to air pollution every year. Above all, air pollution affects unevenly amongst the demographics.

Hispanic, Latino, Asian and African communities are affected most due to polluted air. In addition, the children and older adults living near the pollution source are also susceptible to poor air quality. The intensity of the pollution concentrations has subsequently increased due to more toxic airborne pollutants, aggravating climate crisis, massive wildfires and warm temperatures. 

Even though millions of lives have been saved due to the Clean Air Act, the United States still holds a leading country for premature pollution-related deaths. One of the concerning matters is the increase in carbon dioxide emissions in the past 50 years. The UNEP has stated that around 2.9% of carbon dioxide has increased between 1990 and 2017. The organization has significantly pointed out the sources of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants are the same.

Further, the economic benefits from the Clean Air Act are exceptional; yet the American economy still loses roughly 5% of its GDP yearly to poor air quality. The loss due to poor air quality occurs in agriculture, utilities, manufacturing and transportation.

Let’s find out whether this act needs any improvement.

How can the Clean Air Act be further improved?

The Head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat, Helena Molin Valdes, said that mitigating air pollution extensively benefits human health and climate. She further stated that climate mitigation could significantly help the region’s demography.

While the Clean Air Act has successfully reduced the pollution levels of the six criteria air pollutants and resulted into less death rate, greenhouse gas emissions are now known as a danger to public health and the economy. The increasing levels in the atmosphere have led to warming of the global temperatures and changes in the climatic patterns. The United States credits for 13% of global greenhouse gases. It might soon surpass its Paris Agreement target by 15% or even more.

The American Lung Organisation estimates that about 46% of Americans still breathe filthy air. As mentioned earlier, the economically marginalized people and communities of colour are affected the most as their settlements are probably near highways, power plants, incinerators and other pollution hubs.

Thus, to improve the air quality of the United States further, it is essential to lessen the forthcoming damage to public health, the economy and the environment. Additionally, we should strive hard to make our beloved nation reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Below, I will elaborate on detailed solutions to mitigate air pollution.

   What can I do to protect myself from air pollution?

I will elaborate on some of the measures to protect yourself from air pollution.

Personal Hygiene

You can also fight the effects of air pollution by maintaining personal hygiene:

  • You can cut your nails short to avoid the accumulation of dirt. 
  • You can also practice mouth gargling after coming home to free your mouth from unwanted guests.
  • You can also brush twice a day to keep airborne infections at bay.
  • You can also take steam therapy at home to cleanse your lungs.

Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes, hookahs (shisha), electric vape or any other types of cigars are not at all suitable for your health. It’s best to stop smoking. Active and passive smoking provides the direct entry of harmful pollutants into your body. This causes the risk to your respiration and other organs dependent on it. 

Physical Exercise 

Physical activities have many benefits to your body. It not only improves your stamina and immunity levels but also helps to increase your lung capacity. Yoga, sanas, swimming, running, cycling, brisk walking and dancing are some of the best forms of exercise to improve your health.

Breathing Exercise 

The majority of people in the world don’t breathe properly. However, correct breathing techniques can keep illnesses due to air pollution at bay. A pranayama is a form of yoga asana which helps to improve breathing methods and lung functionality.

Some of the pranayama types that help you fight air pollution are Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom, Chandra Nadi, Surya Nadi and Bhastrika. It is strongly recommended to learn this art of breath from a well-certified yoga trainer. 

You can also increase your lung muscles by simply taking a deep breath and holding it for a count of 10. Then, slowly breathe out the air. If you can keep your breath for a longer time, then you have good lungs health.

Good diet 

Always go for a well-balanced diet to remain fit and strong. Consistent eating of junk and fast food will increase the risk of obesity and other diseases. In addition, such people are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. Instead, add more fresh veggies and fruits to your diet. Also, you can consume less meat to minimise carbon footprints.

You can also add anti-inflammatory foods as these types of food help to cleanse your lungs effectively. Anti-inflammatory foods which I recommend are: 

Immunity booster drinks

You can do your immunity booster drinks by using readily available items in your kitchen. Immunity booster drinks help to cleanse your lungs. Some of the DIY immunity booster drinks are as follows:

  • Take a glass of warm white milk. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder to it. Also, add two strands of saffron to it. Drink it at night before sleeping. You will get good sleep, and you will be relieved from chest congestion. 
  • Boil water by adding half cinnamon stick. Drink the spice-infused water once a day. Your sinuses would be cleared up. 
  • Buy an excellent green tea. Prepare a green tea by following the packet instructions. Have it whenever you feel irritation in your throat. 
  • Take some crushed 1 or 2 peppercorns, a half-inch of a blade of lemongrass and 1 inch of grated ginger and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Add everything in one glass of boiling water and reduce it to half a glass. Drink two tablespoons of this spice-infused warm water every after three hours. Adding honey is optional. 
  • You can also drink warm water and add honey if you want. Honey helps to relieve throat irritation.

Use Mask

Mask can prevent you from inhaling the polluted air. You would be able to work in contaminated areas without any fear of allergy infections and stress. 

Masks I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
BASE CAMP CROSSDUST MASKEAPI Filter Technology & Advanced NanotechnologyUser FriendlyMore Durable Six layers face maskFilter materials of the dust mask: Double-Layer Melt-blown with Electrostatic Adsorption Performance, Activated carbon, Non-woven Polypropylene
NIOSH approved N95 maskFour layers mask Flexible nose pad, dual strapsDisposable maskEasy to breathe
BASE CAMP Reusable Cloth Face MaskThree layers mask; 100% cotton Skin-friendly and breathablePocket to add additional filterReusable Mask

How can I individually reduce air pollution?

You can always try your level best to minimise air pollution. The following are the methods to reduce air pollution at an individual level.

Plant Trees

Encourage tree plantation drives amongst the communities. You can be a green saviour of your region. Trees are the natural air purifiers of the environment, and it supplies us with clean air.

Municipal councils or the local authorities can develop urban forests to increase the green cover of the locality. They can also plan to create vertical green walls to improve oxygen levels of the region naturally. But don’t forget to plant only indigenous trees. 

Human/ religious celebrations in eco-friendly ways 

Nowadays, many couples celebrate gender (of their baby) revealing parties by bursting firecrackers. But, unfortunately, these firecrackers can transform into massive wildfires if they are burst near trees.

Thus, you can celebrate such celebrations by planting trees in your nearby barren land. Bursting firecrackers on any religious, festive or personal occasion are only going to harm your loved ones. 

You can also celebrate Christmas by not cutting Christmas Trees. Instead, you can buy artificial ones and use them in the coming years too.

Discourage Plastic

Single-use plastic has been one of the major concerns in the environment. Plastic pollution indirectly contributes to the degradation of air quality. Plastic, when burned, releases various toxic gases such as dioxins into the air.

Encourage alternative use of the plastic product. For example, you can wear a cloth bag for shopping. You can also carry your travel cutlery set to a restaurant. Additionally, you can take your water bottle instead of purchasing a packaged drinking water bottle every time.

Use of public transportation 

Increase the use of public transport to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. You can also try carpooling or the cab sharing option. Then, you can also use bicycles instead of scooters. Lastly, you can always opt for walking a shorter distance. 

Alternative use of fossil fuel

It would be best to try switching to other fuel alternatives. For example, don’t use wood for the fireplace. Instead, you can wear multiple layers of clothes for warmth. In this way, you can conserve energy. Additionally, you can also install solar panels on house roofs to convert solar energy into electricity. 

You can also buy electric and hybrid vehicles to minimise tailpipe emissions. Finally, propose or discuss a plan with your mayor or any relevant local authority to promote your region’s renewable energy sector.

Reduction of personal carbon footprints

You can also keep a check on your carbon footprints. For example, you can delete unwanted photos, videos or emails from clouds and email boxes as and when possible. Unfortunately, this unwanted stuff takes a lot of energy, which indirectly contributes to air pollution.

You can also switch off the lights and electrical appliances of the vacant rooms. Try buying local products instead of imported ones. Be vocal about them. You can also discover your own country rather than travelling to different ones.

Create Awareness

Air pollution is unpredictable; air pollution in your vicinity can affect people living in Asia and vice-a-versa. However, you can create public awareness about air pollution amongst your community by teaching and interacting with your kids about the importance of good air. 

Educate youth by telling them the ill effects of poor air quality. Then, let your country’s future know that they deserve a better place to live!

How can the local authorities improve the air quality of your region?

You can always observe the changes happening in your surrounding nature. If you experience bad air quality or any activities producing air pollution, you can always concern relevant local authorities or the mayor.

Here are some methods which local authorities can do.

Proper disposal of waste 

Improper solid waste management of an area is an invitation to many diseases and infections. In addition, burning solid waste in public can cause air pollution, although such practices are rare in the US. 

The wastes are mainly disposed of in the engineered landfills and recycled before final disposal to landfills and waste incinerators. 

In addition, waste incinerators help to convert waste into energy.

However, many researchers have claimed that gasification technology or waste-to-energy technology may release harmful gaseous contaminants. Thus, it is necessary that waste collectors rigorously segregate the waste before sending it to waste incinerators. 

The best solution is to minimise waste at a personal level. Statistically, 70% of the waste generated can be recycled effectively. Thus, strive to recycle your waste at a personal level as much as possible.

Reducing air pollution from agriculture

Stubble burning is still practised in some parts of the US. This event contributes to the degradation of air. Local authorities can help farmers convert this waste into cattle fodder or be transformed into pellets as fuel. In addition, farmers should stop the usage of harmful pesticides or fertilisers to decrease air pollution.

How can I reduce indoor air pollution?

Maintaining household or indoor hygiene

You can decrease poor air quality by adequately maintaining indoor hygiene. For example, you can frequently clean your cupboards and open decks to avoid an accumulation of dust particles. You can then vacuum your carpets and sofas at least twice a week. 

Make sure your doggies and cats are well-groomed. Use chimneys and exhaust fans in kitchens. You can also install an exhaust fan in washrooms. Always make sure you are keeping your house well ventilated. 

Keep doors and windows open when possible. Maintain the health of electric appliances such as heaters, humidifiers, AC, fans, air ducts and so on at regular intervals of the year. Avoid overuse of strong perfumes or strong scented candles indoors. You can additionally use indoor plants to make your indoors more lively and fresh.

Indoor plants

Indoor plants do the same work as outdoor ones- they help to purify indoor air naturally. These indoor plants are also easy to maintain.

The indoor plants which I recommend are as follows: 

Air purifiers

Air purifiers help to improve indoor air quality. The risk of getting air pollution-related diseases decreases due to the use of air purifiers. Air purifiers having good HEPA filters do an adequate job of filtering pollutants.

Air Purifiers I recommend are as follows:

NameWhy I recommend it
Blueair Pro XL Air Purifier99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured. 
AIRMEGA 400SReduction of 99.97% of particulates of 0.3 microns. Also responsible for reducing more than 99% of VOCs, NH3 and CH3CHO.Washable and permanent pre-filters are available 
Blueair Pure 121Includes 3-part filtration system. Captures 99% of common airborne PM 2.5 pollutants such as allergens, odours, smoke, mould spores, dust mites and pet dander.An activated carbon filter removes common odours caused by smoke, pets, and gases (VOCs) and smoke caused by wildfires.

Humidifiers

The humidity levels in the office should be maintained between 30 and 50% in the office. This range helps to keep dust mites, mould and other allergens under control. In addition, when AC or heater makes the air in the room dry, humidifiers can maintain correct humidity levels.

Humidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Amazon Basics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier 4 litre of tank capacityAuto shut-off feature and 12 or 24-hour timer settingsIt can be used in both seasons
MOVTIP HumidifierPortable Mini-humidifier500 ml capacity, still produces longer mistsEasy to operate
LEVOIT HumidifierIt can be used for both seasons6 litres of capacity Easy to clean and has a remote control

Dehumidifiers 

Dehumidifiers also work similarly to humidifiers. It controls the high levels of humidity in the office.

Dehumidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Pro Breeze DehumidifierCan extract 50 pints of moisture a dayEnergy-saving auto-off systemBuilt-in Humidity sensor
HOmeLabs DehumidifierEliminates moistness, odour controllerEasy to cleanRemovable water tank
TCL Portable Dehumidifier20 pints of moisture removed per dayIt can be operated at low temperatures tooEasy to maintain

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

What are 10 types of pollution?

What does air pollution mean?

What air pollutants scare the lungs?

Conclusion

We discussed “Was the Clean Air Act successful?” in this blog post. Firstly, the article discussed the information of the Clean Air Act. Next, the success of the Clean Air Act was outlined, followed by this. Additionally, the article also threw light on the further improvement of this Act. In the end, this provided comprehensive solutions to mitigate air pollution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Was the Clean Air Act successful?

Was the Clean Air Act effective?

The Clean Air Act was significantly successful. After implementing the Clean Air Act, more than 200,000 premature deaths and 18 million cases of respiratory illness in children were prevented; this was achieved in its first 20 years.

What was the major success of the Clean Air Act?

The following were the major success of the Clean Air Act:

  • Removal of lead from gasoline
  • Decrease in the chlorofluorocarbons and other substances which are responsible for the atmospheric ozone layer depletion
  • Reduction of sulphur emission levels from power plants and transportation fuels.

What impact did the Clean Air Act have?

Since its implementation, the Clean Air Act has continued to lower pollution levels and protect American families and workers. In addition, the United States has also observed fewer premature deaths and illnesses related to air pollution. As a result, the Americans experience longer lives, better standard of living, significant productivity levels and lower medical expenses.

Has air quality improved in the US?

Since 1970, the application of the Clean Air Act, technological advancement and public awareness of the US citizens has drastically improved the air quality in the US. Since 1970, around 77% of the precursor pollutants have dropped.

Who benefits from the Clean Air Act?

American families and workers have benefitted from the Clean Air Act. So far, 370 000 premature deaths have been avoided. The other benefits are fewer hospital admissions for cardiac and respiratory illnesses and net economic benefits of up to USD 3.8 trillion for the US economy.

What is the Clean Air Act 2021?

The new Clean Air Act’s regulations order that newly built pollution emitters follow the new source performance standards that protect public welfare. Besides, the act also includes a list of harmful air pollutants and establishes air quality control regions called attainment areas.

References

40th Anniversary of the Clean Air Act. EPA. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/40th-anniversary-clean-air-act  

A success story, with many chapters still to come. Earthjustice. Available at: https://earthjustice.org/features/campaigns/a-success-story-with-many-chapters-still-to-come  

Evolution of the Clean Air Act. EPA. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/evolution-clean-air-act

Gardiner, B., 2020. The Clean Air Act has saved millions of lives and trillions of dollars. Environment. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/clean-air-act-saved-millions-of-lives-trillions-of-dollars?loggedin=true

Palmer, B., 2016. Our greatest environmental success is at risk. NRDC. Available at: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/our-greatest-environmental-success-risk  

Summary of the Clean Air Act. EPA. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-clean-air-act  

The Clean Air Act. Available at: https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/climate_law_institute/global_warming_litigation/clean_air_act/index.html  

The United States clean air act turns 50: Is the air any better half a century later? UNEP. Available at: https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/united-states-clean-air-act-turns-50-air-any-better-half-century-later  

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