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By the Numbers: About this Issue

Comparison of Growth and Air Emissions, 1990 – 2010

Comparison of Growth and Air Emissions, 1990 – 2010
Source: U.S. EPA, Office of Air and Radiation.
Our Nation's Air, status and trends through 2010

The numbers tell the story. Between 1990 and 2010, U.S. gross domestic production increased by some 65%. Total miles traveled by U.S. vehicles went up 40%. The population grew by 24%, and energy consumption rose 15%. And amongst all that growth and activity, the country's air got significantly cleaner: levels of six major categories of air pollutant emissions dropped 59%.

The impact of that reduction includes another impressive number: five months. That's the estimated increase in life expectancy attributed to cleaner air for those living in certain urban areas, based on an EPA-supported study Exit EPA Disclaimer published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

How was that achieved? It all started with science. Science-based air pollution regulations under the Clean Air Act have helped advance remarkable success in making the air cleaner and healthier for communities across the nation.

But there is still work to be done.

"There have been great strides since the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970, almost to the point now, when we look outside, the air is clear in most places—even in most urban environments—and we kind of forget the fact that there are things in the air that while we can't see them we can inhale them," said EPA air scientist Dan Costa, Sc.D., DABT.

Dr. Costa, the National Program Director for EPA's Air, Climate, and Energy research program is just one of the EPA experts featured in this issue of EPA Science Matters, which focuses on the impact and ongoing efforts of EPA air research.

Highlighted are stories about EPA's efforts to better understand the complex interrelations between air, climate, and energy, including: a recent study illuminating how exposure to ground-level ozone may be linked to heart trouble, the potential health impacts of biodiesel fuels emissions, research exploring how black carbon affects the climate, the efforts of EPA engineers to design clean-burning cookstoves to improve the health of hundreds of millions of people.

40 years of EPA air research have added up to provide significant and lasting impacts in the form of cleaner air and healthier communities. And that important work continues to advance the science and engineering needed to meet the far-reaching and complex challenges facing us today.

Read this issue of EPA Science Matters to learn more.

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