During the 1950s and 1960s, air quality in the United States was slowly becoming worse and worse. In 1955, epidemiological studies exhibited an increase in smog-related illnesses and deaths that grabbed national attention to pass the first clean air act (“A look back at first US air pollution legislation”, 2014). The Air Pollution Control Act of 1955 acted as a research program conducted by the Public Health Service in an attempt to control air pollution (Ametsoc.org). Although this legislation did not regulate any air pollutants, this act served as the stepping stone that allowed the federal government to recognize the detrimental effects of air pollution. Since the 1950s, there has been a shift in focus on identifying the air pollutants, trying to eliminate or decrease them, and the consequences of air pollution on our planet.
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Los Angeles became distinguished by he yellowish-brown cloud produced by motor vehicle exhaust in the 1950s (“Introduction to Public Health”, 2017). The Clean Air Act of 1963 recognized the dangers of motor vehicle exhaust, high sulfur coal and oil. Over a three year period, this act funded $95 million to governments and air pollution control agencies to conduct research and create control programs that would promote health and welfare to the American citizens. Based on the research from these agencies, there was a development of emissions standards to reduce hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide in order to protect the community from horrible air quality. As a result, carbon monoxide declined by 84 percent due to these emissions standards and there was a decline of 81 percent between 1980 and 2013 due to the encouraged use of technology to remove sulfur from these fuels (“Introduction to Public Health”, 2017). The Clean Air Act of 1970 established stricter air quality standards and set limitations on major air pollutants.
The Clean Air Act of 1970 established the National Ambient Air Quality Standards and New Source Performance Standards (Ametsoc.org). The Clean Air Act called an action to regulate the criteria air pollutants which are particulates, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, and lead. Enviroment Protection Agency was able to identify a number of hazardous particles that contaminate the air like asbestos, mercury, beryllium, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic, radionuclides, and coke-oven emissions (“Introduction to Public Health”, 2017). A major source of air pollution was due to motor vehicles, so there were efforts to use less polluting alternative fuels, installation of vapor recovery systems, and annual measurements of tailpipe emissions. The Clean Air Act of 1970 reduced emissions of carbon monoxide and ozone- producing chemicals by 90 percent. Another example of the government decreasing industrial sources of pollution was setting an overall emissions goal and decreasing it over the years. Although these air pollution control acts have been established for our safety, there are lobbyists from industrial plants who are trying to dismantle these laws for their own personal gain.
Air pollution is a major contributor to the global effects that have taken place over the years. Because air pollution does not stay contained in one area, it disperses into the atmosphere causing problems in several locations of the world. Acid rain is an example of two air pollutants forming sulfuric and nitric acid. Acid rain damages forests, destroys surfaces of buildings, and turns water unlivable for organisms who pertain there. EPA data displays that regulations on industrial pollutants in the United States have reduced the acidity of rainfall in the Northeast (“Air Pollution”, 2019). The reduction of the ozone layer is another exhibition of the global effects of some air pollutants. International action was required to reduce the production and use of chlorofluorocarbons in order to restabilize the ozone layer. These examples show the consequences of air pollutants and the importance to reduce them to prevent further damage to our communities and our planet.
Over the years, there have been many efforts pushed by the United States government to promote public health by diminishing air pollution. The 1950s demonstrated the poor air quality that existed and encouraged Clean Air Acts to be passed. These legislations have been set in place to try to reduce or eliminate the criteria air pollutants and inhibit the global effects of air pollution. Although there has been an increase in air quality since the 1950s, there are still repercussions that are happening from the air pollutants that are not being surveillanced heavily. It is important for the government to respect the Clean Air Acts for they are the reason that many smog-related illnesses and deaths are not as common.
- Nathanson, Jerry A. “Air Pollution.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 31 Oct. 2018, www.britannica.com/science/air-pollution/The-global-reach-of-air-pollution.
- SCHNEIDER, MARY-JANE. INTRODUCTION TO PUBLIC HEALTH. JONES & BARTLETT LEARNING, 2020.
- “Legislation.” Clean Air #1, www.ametsoc.org/sloan/cleanair/cleanairlegisl.html.
- “A Look Back at First US Air Pollution Legislation.” National Catholic Reporter, 14 July 2014, www.ncronline.org/blogs/eco-catholic/look-back-first-us-air-pollution-legislation
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