“All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man… the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports”–Chief Seattle
The Clean Air Act is a Federal law that requires the Environmental Protection Program (EPA) to mandate certain National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Originally signed into law by former President Lyndon B. Johnson, it was critically amended with overwhelming bipartisan support in 1990 and signed into law by former President George H.W. Bush. The NAAQS limits the maximum concentration of six “criteria pollutants” of the air outside air we breathe.
The criteria pollutants are:
- carbon monoxide (CO)
- lead (Pb)
- ozone at ground level (NOT the good ozone we need for UV protection from the sun) (O3)
- nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
- particulate matter (e.g., PM2.5)
- sulfur dioxide (SO2)
These pollutants not only harm human health, but also cause damage to animals, plants, and property. In my research, I primarily focus on ozone concentrations in the outdoor air. Breathing high concentrations of ozone could cause health complications and/or premature death. Ozone is a secondary pollutant (meaning that it is not directly emitted, but created by the sun zapping some chemical compounds and creating new compounds to form O3). This means that regulation of ozone precursors (chemicals that make ozone) from sources like power plants, cars, and ships are necessary to maintain healthy concentrations. Children have the greatest risk of health problems due to ozone exposure. Air quality alerts are to be taken seriously. Investigate some of the links provided on this page and know the risks of outdoor activity on polluted days.
Learn more about ozone pollution
We KNOW that regulations work. The Clean Air Act (CAA) was one of the greatest success stories of environmental legislation.
Example: Acid Rain. In summary, acid rain is the result of SO2 emissions (emitted mainly from burning of fossil fuels). Due to the standards set forth by the CAA and coordination with states, SO2 concentrations have dramatically decreased (you could see this in the figures below: SO2 concentration from 1991, the year I was born, to 2014). This means that acid rain has also decreased drastically. Bottom line? Regulations WORK and clean air and water is a NECESSITY when living and breathing in an industrial age.