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The Clean Air Act has had a tremendous impact on the cars Americans drive and buy – and stands as a sentinel against groups, like Pep Boys, that violate the U.S.'s air quality. Not bad for a 40-year-old.
Yes, the EPA's sometimes controversial Clean Air Act celebrates the start of its fifth decade of protecting "our health and our environment, saving lives and sparking new innovations to make our economy cleaner and stronger," as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement. The EPA says Act prevented:
  • 205,000 premature deaths
  • 672,000 cases of chronic bronchitis
  • 21,000 cases of heart disease
  • 843,000 asthma attacks
  • 10.4 million lost I.Q. points in children – mostly from reducing lead in gasoline
  • 18 million child respiratory illnesses
And that was just in the first 20 years. Since 1990, there have been even more health benefits. Most important for the automobiles we write about here are these lines from the EPA's birthday card (press release) to itself:
  • Cleaner cars, trucks and transportation
  • New cars, light trucks, and heavy-duty diesel engines are up to 95 percent cleaner than past models thanks to technology such as the catalytic converter.
  • New non-road engines used in construction and agriculture have 90 percent less particle pollution and nitrogen oxide emissions than previous models.
  • When fully implemented in 2030, vehicle and fuel programs will produce $186 billion in air quality and health benefits, with only $11 billion in costs, a nearly 16-to-1 benefit/cost ratio.
The EPA doesn't define what "95 percent cleaner" means, but we can all agree that the EPA has been doing a lot over the last 40 years to push for better cars (and other things). What changes do you think we'll see over the next four decades?

[Source: EPA]

PRESS RELEASE

EPA's Clean Air Act Turns 40

Agency achieved significant health and environmental benefits

WASHINGTON - As part of the activities commemorating the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 40th anniversary, the agency is highlighting progress made under the 40 years of the Clean Air Act (CAA) at a conference in Washington , D.C. Among the attendees are those who have helped to shape the CAA over the years, including members of Congress, state and local government officials, and leaders in public health, business and technology, environmental justice, and advocacy.

"For 40 years the Clean Air Act has protected our health and our environment, saving lives and sparking new innovations to make our economy cleaner and stronger. The common sense application of the act has made it one of the most cost-effective things the American people have done for themselves in the last half century," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "Since 1970 we have seen a steady trajectory of less pollution in our communities and greater economic opportunity throughout our nation. We will continue those trends as we face the clean air challenges of the next 40 years, including working to cut greenhouse gases and grow the American clean energy economy. The Clean Air Act proves the naysayers wrong – we can protect our health and environment at the same time we grow our economy."

Significant health benefits, especially for children
According to an EPA analysis, the first 20 years of Clean Air Act programs, from 1970 to 1990, prevented:

· 205,000 premature deaths
· 672,000 cases of chronic bronchitis
· 21,000 cases of heart disease
· 843,000 asthma attacks
· 10.4 million lost I.Q. points in children – mostly from reducing lead in gasoline
· 18 million child respiratory illnesses

Improved air quality and public health
In 1990, the act was revised with overwhelming bipartisan support.

· From 1990 through 2008, emissions of six common pollutants are down 41 percent, while gross domestic product has grown 64 percent.
· Lead levels in the air are 92 percent lower than in 1980, greatly reducing the number of children with IQs below 70 as a result of dirty air.
· Preliminary EPA analysis shows that in 2010, CAA fine particles and ozone programs will prevent more than 160,000 premature deaths. The economic value of air quality improvements is estimated to reach almost $2 trillion for the year 2020, a value that exceeds the costs to comply with the 1990 Clean Air Act and related programs.

Cleaner cars, trucks and transportation
New cars, light trucks, and heavy-duty diesel engines are up to 95 percent cleaner than past models thanks to technology such as the catalytic converter.

· New non-road engines used in construction and agriculture have 90 percent less particle pollution and nitrogen oxide emissions than previous models.

· When fully implemented in 2030, vehicle and fuel programs will produce $186 billion in air quality and health benefits, with only $11 billion in costs, a nearly 16-to-1 benefit/cost ratio.

Combating acid rain, cleaner power plants, significant economic and health benefits
The acid rain program has reduced damage to water quality in lakes and streams, and improved the health of ecosystems and forests. Acid deposition has decreased by more than 30 percent in much of the Midwest and Northeast since 1990 under a cap-and-trade program for power plants.

· Reductions in fine particle levels yielded benefits including the avoidance of about 20,000 to 50,000 premature deaths annually.
· The benefits of the acid rain program outweigh the costs by at least 40-to-1.

Reducing industrial toxic air pollution
Since 1990, toxic emissions have been reduced from industry by 1.7 million tons a year -- many times the reductions achieved in the first 20 years of the CAA.

· The air toxics rules for chemical plants, oil refineries, aerospace manufacturing and other industries also are achieving large reductions in pollutants that form smog and particulates.
· Monitoring networks are extensive enough to determine that outdoor air concentrations of benzene, a carcinogen, decreased 55 percent between 1994 and 2007.

Reducing skin cancer by protecting the ozone layer
The Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 require that EPA develop and implement regulations for the responsible management of ozone-depleting substances in the United States to help restore the ozone layer.

· The phase-out of the most harmful ozone-depleting chemicals, including CFC and halons will reduce U.S. incidences of non-melanoma skin cancer by 295 million during the period 1989 through 2075, as well as protect people from immune system suppression and eye damage leading to cataracts.

The event is being webcast live: http://www.epa.gov/live/

More information on the Clean Air Act: http://epa.gov/oar/caa/40th.html


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 23 Comments
      • 1 Month Ago
      The gas engine is so much cleaner,
      and the DIEsel is still a gross-polluting pig.

      What's with that?
      • 1 Month Ago
      The American gasoline ICE has been cleaned up beyond the fondest hopes of the Greeest green EPA careerist.

      The only reason that they did not claim 99.9% is two fold. There are still old dirtier cars out there, but as these are scrapped and replaced, the benefits approach 99.9% cleaner, or rather simply, CLEAN Air.
      So clean that I have been advocating choosing a National Celebration like Victory for the Environment or VE Day to recognize the forty year war on Air Quality is over. We Americans won. Thank the EPA, there is no more to do.

      The second reason is that they would have to admit there is nothing more for them to do. The reason for their existence is over. Bureacracies never do that.

      And then turn our attention and resources to another Problem.

      • 1 Month Ago
      There are a few old cars on the roads during the summer -- and you can smell 'em from 1/4 mile away... Unburned gasoline and/or oil fumes. Hard to imagine all the cars on the road spewing that much pollution... I started driving in the late '70's so they were all that way; and it is only now that we have relatively clean cars that makes the difference so stark.

      Sincerely, Neil
      • 1 Month Ago
      Unfortunately, that old Ford diesel truck whose exhaust is perennially aimed at my side door and windows negates much of the benefit of the clean air act to me personally. And the new ones are only marginally better.
      • 1 Month Ago
      The EPA was not the answer, because the rise in energy consumption is enormous, many times over the US population growth.
      The biggest EPA contribution is on housing and industry codes that forbid the use of asbestos, and other hazardous materials, and the next step has got to be mandatory thermal efficiency of every new living/working building. These will free up enough energy resources to keep you guys out of war for a decade, maybe two.
      To the ones that think green autos is the answer, it's really not... sure the fumes were troublesome... the lead introduction was the stupid idea ever (oil companies thought of that), and an additive (hence why it was so "easy" for EPA to get oil-concensus on freeing us from leaded fuel). But if you think about it, its the sheer size and weight of cars (along with the built in power for high speeds, seldom used) that makes the bulk of the mobility problem: low efficiency. it won't make an enormous difference for the race if we drive electric or gas. The issue is on insisting in Driving every 100ft from A to B...
      That iis an education/cultural habit that no 40-year old EPA can change. It will have to be the prohibitive energy costs (electric or otherwise).
      • 1 Month Ago
      I can't imagine what it was like before the 1970's in larger areas.

      I get massive smog headaches from stop and go driving in the city too long during hot days, even out here in 'green' northern Oregon. From that, i do have a taste of what it's like to suffer disease from smog :/
        • 1 Month Ago
        Which ended up making it worse. Whoops :)

        There's no winning with the ICE. Even ethanol spits out aldehydes, which are bad to the bone.
        • 1 Month Ago
        Lets just say that there were a number of reasons why people moved out to the burbs. Pollution in the cities was pretty high on that list.
      • 1 Month Ago
      The American gasoline ICE has been cleaned up beyond the fondest hopes of the Greenest green EPA careerist.

      The only reason that they did not claim 99.9% is two fold. There are still old dirtier cars out there, but as these are scrapped and replaced, joining the rouhgly 25% that are simply Clean, the benefits approach 99.9% cleaner, or rather simply, CLEAN Air.
      So clean that I have been advocating choosing a date for a National Celebration like Victory for the Environment or VE Day, to recognize the forty year war on Air Quality is over. We Americans won. Thank the EPA, there is no more to do.

      The second reason is that they would have to admit there is nothing more for them to do. The reason for their existence is over. Bureaucracies never do that. So we chop the budge to 5% of current spending merely to occasionally checkup to prevent backsliding.

      And then turn our attention and resources, to another Problem.

      • 1 Month Ago
      It's amazing but true: the average new car is indeed about 95% cleaner than in 1970, in terms of NOx and particulates, and all those nasty things we call gas fumes. You can really smell the difference. The old cars you can smell the exhaust. Many of the new cars you can't smell. Because they burn fuel so completely they still put out CO2 but not much else. But although these new cars are a lot cleaner they still burn gas - my next car will be electric :)
        • 1 Month Ago
        I cycle in traffic, and I disagree with that statement. I can smell the exhaust of new cars, and it's not pleasant. It is a hell of a lot better than an old truck.

        There's still smog and haze over most cities I visit, though it's far better than it was.
        • 1 Month Ago
        Maybe you are smelling vehicles that have just been started.
        Carbureted and diesel vehicles suck, new cars [less than 10 years old] are nasally invisible.
      • 1 Month Ago
      Three cheers for platinum, palladium, rhodium.
      • 1 Month Ago
      Not to be too nit-pickey, but 95% cleaner than what? It's a nonsense statement.
      • 1 Month Ago
      Some of those who wrote & agree with this article are just patting themselves on the back for what's been done to perpetuate gas engines! The real thanks comes in when Gm starts getting serious about expanding vehicle technology that encompases & replaces all gas engines with electric hybrids. That's when we can truly say it's becoming safe. Then comes the total change to all electric. Voila!. Cleaner air by reducing the entire World's car pollutants to zero. Until then celebrating a victory is a waste of time! If the auto industry doesn't do it voluntarily then it will have to be forced!








      • 1 Month Ago
      Thank you, Richard Nixon.

      And no, I am not being sarcastic. Nixon signed the legislation that created the EPA.
        • 1 Month Ago
        "Thank you, Richard Nixon."

        Not just EPA. The health insurance reform is largely like the one Nixon proposed all those years back.
        • 1 Month Ago
        Yeah, it really says something when Richard Nixon is looking like the good & sane Republican. Back before they became theocrats pushing voodoo economics.

        I miss GOPers like Ike, Goldwater, and Nixon.
        • 1 Month Ago
        You got it right digitalzombie. Conservatives were voted out. Nixon saw the writing on the wall. He knew to get some laws on the books for the environment or the environmental movement was going to vote more conservatives out eroding Nixon's base. If you can't beat them, join them. Nixon knew he could not beat the environmental movement of the late 60's and early 70's.

        "He voted against price controls and other monetary controls, benefits for illegal immigrants, and public power.[38]

        He appealed to what he called the "silent majority" of socially conservative Americans who disliked the hippie counterculture and the anti-war demonstrators, and secured the nomination in August. His running mate, Maryland governor Spiro Agnew, became an increasingly vocal critic of these groups, solidifying Nixon's position with the right.[67]

        He stressed that the crime rate was too high, and attacked what he perceived as a surrender by the Democrats of the United States' nuclear superiority"

        Nixon was very conservative early in his career. He was a enigma. He was conservative running against Kennedy and later became a bit more moderate. He once called a opponents he was running against a communist right down to her pink panties. She retaliated calling him Tricky Dick. I noticed Janice Joplin liked to refer to him as Tricky Dick.

        "In the 1950 mid-term elections, Nixon ran against Democratic Representative Helen Gahagan Douglas for a seat in the U.S. Senate, representing California.[37] The campaign is best remembered as one of the most contentious of the times. Nixon felt the former actress was a left-wing sympathizer, labeling her "pink right down to her underwear."[37] Conversely, Douglas referred to Nixon as "Tricky Dick"[37], a derisive nickname which remained with him for the rest of his life. In the November election, Nixon defeated Douglas."
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Nixon
        • 1 Month Ago
        DAMN LIBERALS!!1!!

        hurf durf!
        BipDBo
        • 1 Month Ago
        You miss GOPers like Ike, Goldwater, and Nixon. I miss Democrats like JFK. Heck, I even miss Billy.
        • 1 Month Ago
        He passed it right after several conservatives was voted out of office. But another factor in passing it, is that he was a moderate, moderate in form of Teddy Roosevelt's spirit of conservation.

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