Some good (and bad) news on air pollution

The American Lung Association has issued its State of the Air 2012 report. The news is mostly good. Since 1990, aggregate emissions of common air pollutants in the US have fallen 60%, even as the economy, population, and vehicle miles traveled have increased. Short term, the vast majority of the nation’s most polluted cities enjoyed better air quality in 2011 than in 2010. There is also some bad news, however. More than 40% of Americans — 125 million people — live in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone or particulate pollution, or both. And emissions of greenhouse gases, unlike those of conventional pollutants, continue to rise.

The report credits the Clean Air Act for the dramatic declines in air pollution over the past 20 years (and longer, but this report doesn’t show the timeline back to the CAA’s introduction in 1970). It calls on the public to oppose congressional efforts to hamstring CAA implementation, to support EPA’s efforts to clean up dirty power plants, and to push EPA to tighten its particulate matter standards.

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