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Air Toxics Reduction

What is Being Done About Air Toxics?

Over the past decade, EPA and our regulatory partners at the State and local level have taken significant steps to dramatically reduce toxic air pollutants and provide important health protections for Americans nationwide. These steps include: reducing toxic emissions from industrial sources; reducing emissions from vehicles and engines through new stringent emission standards and cleaner burning gasoline; and addressing indoor air pollution though voluntary programs. See further details below about reductions from:

Industrial Source Programs

EPA has issued 96 air toxics regulations impacting over 174 categories of major industrial sources including chemical plants, oil refineries, aerospace manufacturers, and steel mills. The requirements in a number of these regulations took effect between 1999 and 2005. When fully implemented, these standards are projected to reduce annual air toxics emissions by about 1.7 million tons.

EPA has also completed 49 area source standards, and we are working on developing standards for an additional 21 area source categories. Once completed, these standards will address well over 90 percent of the 1990 baseline toxicity-weighted emissions from area sources. So far in 2008, EPA has issued final rules for nine metal fabrication and finishing source categories, gasoline distribution bulk terminals, bulk plants and pipeline facilities and gasoline dispensing facilities. EPA's area source program includes a community support component because communities with disproportionate risks may be able to reduce some toxic sources more quickly and effectively through local initiatives rather than through national regulations. For several years, we have provided funding and support in the way of tools, expertise and training to communities and Tribes to address their unique air toxics issues. The national-scale assessment is one such tool that communities often use as a component of a local air toxics evaluation to determine potential pollutants and sources for investigation.

EPA's area source program includes a community support component because communities with disproportionate risks may be able to reduce some toxic sources more quickly and effectively through local initiatives rather than through national regulations. For several years, we have provided funding and support in the way of tools, expertise and training to communities and Tribes to address their unique air toxics issues. The national-scale assessment is one such tool that communities often use as a component of a local air toxics evaluation to determine potential pollutants and sources for investigation.

Learn more about EPA's regulation of air toxics from industrial sources and EPA's area source program.

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Mobile Source Programs

Many motor vehicle and fuel emission control programs of the past have reduced air toxics and will continue to provide significant emission reductions in the future. While many of these programs were put in place primarily to reduce ozone and particulate matter through volatile organic compound (VOC) and diesel PM controls, and thereby to help states and localities come into attainment with the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), they have reduced and will continue to reduce emissions of air toxics very significantly.

There are many motor vehicle and fuel emission control programs which have reduced air toxics and will continue to provide significant emission reductions in the future. While many of these programs were put in place primarily to reduce ozone and particulate matter through volatile organic compound (VOC) and diesel PM controls, and thereby to help states and localities come into attainment with the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), they have reduced and will continue to reduce emissions of air toxics very significantly. EPA's most recent program specifically targeted at air toxics emissions is the Control of Hazardous Air Pollutants from Mobile Sources (Mobile Source Air Toxics or “MSAT”) Final Rule, which was published February 26, 2007.

This rule will lower emissions of benzene and other air toxics in three ways:(1) by lowering the benzene content of gasoline (beginning in 2011); (2) by reducing exhaust emissions from passenger vehicles operating at cold temperatures (under 75 degrees), beginning in 2010; and (3) by reducing emissions that evaporate from, and permeate through, portable fuel containers (beginning in 2009).Taken together, the standards will reduce total emissions of mobile source air toxics by 330,000 tons in 2030, including 61,000 tons of benzene.

EPA estimates that existing programs will result in an over 65 percent reduction in emissions of gaseous air toxics from highway mobile sources between 1999 and 2030, despite large increases in vehicle miles traveled. By 2030, EPA expects to see on-highway diesel PM emission reductions of over 90 percent from 2001 levels. The highway mobile source programs include fuel programs such as the 2007 MSAT rule’s benzene content standard; lead phaseout; reformulated gasoline (RFG) and anti-dumping standards; gasoline toxics emissions performance standards as required by the 2001 mobile source air toxics rule; and low-sulfur gasoline and diesel requirements. Vehicle programs include our 2007 MSAT rule; national low emission vehicle (NLEV) program; our Tier 2 motor vehicle emissions standards and gasoline sulfur control requirements; inspection and maintenance programs; on-board diagnostics; and our heavy-duty engine and vehicle standards.

As a result of the recent Locomotive and Commercial Marine Vessel rule, the Clean Air Nonroad Diesel Rule, and other nonroad standards, nonroad diesel PM emissions in 2030 will be reduced by over 80% from year 2001 levels. EPA has also recently finalized additional emissions control for small spark-ignition engines and recreational marine engines. EPA estimates that gaseous air toxics emissions from nonroad equipment will be reduced almost 60% between 1999 and 2030, despite significant increases in activity EPA is currently developing a proposal to control emissions from the largest ocean-going vessels.

EPA is also assisting states, communities and citizens in identifying and implementing voluntary programs, such as diesel retrofits and Clean School Bus USA to achieve additional reductions.

Learn more about EPA's programs to reduce air toxics from mobile sources.

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Indoor Air Programs

EPA also has promoted programs that have reduced indoor air toxics. For example, close to two million homes have been built with radon resistant construction or fixed to reduce radon levels. Approximately 25,000 schools have implemented effective indoor air quality management plans, reducing children's exposure to pollutants; and health care providers, parents and caregivers are taking action to reduce children's exposure to secondhand smoke and other asthma triggers in the home. Learn more about about indoor air activities.

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