Clear the Air

Environmental Defense Fund’s Clear the Air campaign has information about toxic pollutants and the Clean Air Act (


Every year, 17,000 Americans die prematurely — and unnecessarily — because half of the coal-burning power plants in the country still lack scrubbers and other basic, readily available pollution control technologies.

A 1983 EPA report showed that between 1976 and 1980, as the amount of lead in gasoline dropped 50 percent, blood-lead levels in children dropped 37 percent.

In the 1970s, 88.2 percent of U.S. children had elevated blood-lead levels. By 1995, that number has dropped to 4.4 percent.

A 10-year delay in banning leaded gas would have meant 300 thousand more American kids with IQs below 70.

Over the last 20 years, EPA cut pollution 41% while U.S. Gross Domestic Product rose 64%. Bottom line on EPA’s 40 years of clean air work: every $1 invested has produced $30 in benefits.

Nationwide, levels of almost all the “criteria pollutants” addressed by the 1970 Clean Air Act saw dramatic reductions since passage of the law, By 2000,  carbon monoxide was down 31 percent; sulfur dioxide 27 percent; coarse particulate matter 71 percent; lead 98 percent. Volatile organic compounds such as dry cleaning fluids and paint thinners, which contribute significantly to photochemical smog production and certain health problems, also declined 42 percent from 1970 levels by the year 2000.

A 2003 Journal of the American Medical Association report credits Clean Air Act regulations with saving 11,700 lives from carbon monoxide–related premature deaths over a 30-year period.

Since 1990, emissions of six common air pollutants targeted by the Clean Air Act have fallen 41% — while the U.S. economy more than doubled in size (in terms of GDP).

American drivers put 3 trillion miles on the odometer each year, nearly 3 times more than in 1970 — but today’s vehicles run nearly 95% cleaner.

U.S. energy consumption is up 45% (as of 2003) from 1970 levels — but with scrubbers now in place at more than half the country’s coal-burning power plants, sulfur dioxide pollution is down 63%.

Source: Clear the Air