The Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act
Why Should You Be Concerned About Air Pollution?
You could go days without food and hours without water, but you would last only a few minutes without air. On average, each of us breathes over 3,000 gallons of air each day. You must have air to live. However, did you know that breathing polluted air can make you sick?
Air pollution can damage trees, crops, other plants, lakes, and animals. In addition to damaging the natural environment, air pollution also damages buildings, monuments, and statues. It not only reduces how far you can see in national parks and cities, it even interferes with aviation.
In 1970, Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and passed the Clean Air Act, giving the federal government authority to clean up air pollution in this country. Since then, EPA and states, tribes, local governments, industry, and environmental groups have worked to establish a variety of programs to reduce air pollution levels across America.
The Clean Air Act has helped change the way many of us work or do business. In some cases, it has even changed the way we live. This guide provides a brief introduction to the programs, philosophies, and policies in the Clean Air Act.
Air Pollution and Your Health
Breathing polluted air can make your eyes and nose burn. It can irritate your throat and make breathing difficult. In fact, pollutants like tiny airborne particles and groundlevel ozone can trigger respiratory problems, especially for people with asthma. Today, nearly 30 million adults and children in the United States have been diagnosed with asthma. Asthma sufferers can be severely affected by air pollution. Air pollution can also aggravate health problems for the elderly and others with heart or respiratory diseases.
Some toxic chemicals released in the air such as benzene or vinyl chloride are highly toxic and can cause cancer, birth defects, long term injury to the lungs, as well as brain and nerve damage. And in some cases, breathing these chemicals can even cause death.
Other pollutants make their way up into the upper atmosphere, causing a thinning of the protective ozone layer. This has led to changes in the environment and dramatic increases in skin cancers and cataracts (eye damage).
Air Pollution and the Environment
Air pollution isn’t just a threat to our health, it also damages our environment. Toxic air pollutants and the chemicals that form acid rain and ground-level ozone can damage trees, crops, wildlife, lakes and other bodies of water. Those pollutants can also harm fish and other aquatic life.
Air Pollution and the Economy
The health, environmental, and economic impacts of air pollution are significant. Each day, air pollution causes thousands of illnesses leading to lost days at work and school. Air pollution also reduces agricultural crop and commercial forest yields by billions of dollars each year.