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Understanding The Clean Air Act - Its Purpose And Benefits

Clean Air Act


The Clean Air Act has had a revolutionary impact on the environment and the health of people in America by helping to drastically reduce the levels of air pollution that was becoming a major concern to activists and health professionals across the country.

The Act was first created in 1955 and has undergone several major updates since in 1970, 1977, and 1990 to meet the changing needs and the new scientific understandings of the problems it was designed to address. As we explore its purpose and benefits let's begin to think of practical ways we can implement our own "Clean Air Act" in our current residences.

What Is The Purpose of The Clean Air Act?

The Clean Air Act is a legally enforceable code that requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to maintain a high standard of air quality to protect the health of the population of the USA. When the air is heavily polluted, as it has been in the past and still is in many parts of the world, the health of the people can rapidly deteriorate.

Polluted air contains a wide range of particulates which can cause respiratory and lung disease as well as skin rashes, eye conditions, and allergic reactions. The Clean Air Act put in law the notion that the EPA must create health-based standards for air quality across the nation.

The EPA closely monitors the polluting emissions that are caused by cars, power plants, and other industrial processes to ensure that they do not exceed the legal limits. The legal mandates that the EPA was given by The Clean Air Act apply to nearly 200 types of hazardous and toxic air pollutants. This has not only reduced the amount of dangerous acid rain but has also helped to lead the world by example into a cleaner, greener, and healthier future.

The Clean Air Act - 42 U.S.C 7401

  • Protects the health and well-being of humans
  • Maintains nationwide standards of air quality
  • Reduces pollution and the levels of toxic particulates
  • Protects the environment and the nation's wildlife
  • Monitors air quality indoors as well as outdoors

The Clean Air Act, as enforced by the EPA, mandates that the air must be of good quality, both indoors and outdoors. Areas that are not in compliance with the world-leading standards are designated as 'non-attainment areas' and action may be taken against the polluters - whether they are a private or public entity. For instance, if a factory is producing large quantities of pollution and lowering the local air quality then the EPA has the right to take legal action to stop it. While this usually involves the issuing of fines, in come cases prison terms could be imposed for serious repeat offenders.

The Benefits of The Clean Air Act

Economic Impacts

Contrary to what many of the Act's critics have claimed it has had a massively positive economic impact. Scientists estimate that by 2030, the Act will create over 180 Billion Dollars worth of health and environmental benefits in its application to cars and vehicles alone - as opposed to just 11 Billion Dollars in costs.

This represents a remarkable victory for the environmental movement which has long pointed out that taking better care of the natural world will deliver more benefits than costs - and The Clean Air Act is showing this to be the case.

In its totality, The Clean Air Act delivered more than 2 Trillion Dollars worth of environmental and health benefits in the year 2020. This far exceeds the costs associated with compliance with the regulations. Now, even the harshest critics of the Act have got on board!

Health Impacts

The benefits of The Clean Air Act to human health and well-being have been astounding with the data showing that more than 150,000 premature deaths will be prevented by its implementation. Each one these death preventions has a major economic value. 

Poor quality air that is loaded with pollutants and hazardous particulates can cause lung and respiratory diseases, skin problems, and many other chronic conditions. By relieving people of these problems The Clean Air Act has performed a significant public service. Moreover, it has also saved more than 15 million lost workdays each year by improving the health of the nation.

Environmental Impacts

One of the first motivations for the introduction of The Clean Air Act was the increasing problem of acid rain. This is caused by heavy pollution which is absorbed into the water in clouds and then falls as 'acid rain'. This poisons lakes damages natural ecosystems and was thought to be responsible for nearly 50,000 premature deaths in the United States alone - although it was also a worldwide problem. 

The mitigation of acid rain has seen the environmental and public health of the United States improve dramatically and when combined with a better understanding of the processes involved, which modern science has given us, The Clean Air Act has been enormously successful. Additionally, it has helped to reduce the damage to the stratospheric ozone layer by limiting the use of CFCs and other similar chemicals in the industrial process.

The Clean Air Act - Still More To Do

Despite the excellent track record that The Clean Air Act has for delivering economic, social, and environmental benefits there is still more work to be done. Not only do governments and corporations have a role to play in maintaining air quality but individuals should also be cognizant of the things they can do.

Even with the best efforts of official agencies and governmental organizations, individuals should still be doing everything that they can to ensure that the air quality in their homes and workplaces is as high as it can be! This may involve the use of air filters and other devices to reduce the toxic particles that are in the air - particularly if you are in a built-up area.

Regardless of the massive gains in health, environmental standards, and worker productivity that have resulted from the implementation of The Clean Air Act, Americans still need to take responsibility for their own homes and do everything they can to keep the air clean and free from particulates.

Indoor Air Quality and Individual Responsibility 

Given the fact the EPA has stated indoor air quality is often 2 to 5 times worse than outdoor air, we should be more aware of What Is In The Air We Breathe. Fortunately, living in the modern world affords us the opportunity to take advantage of air purification technology for our own personal environments at very affordable prices. Cost-Benefit Analysis of such technologies demonstrate that investments in our personal health and that of our families pays long-term dividends.

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