WASHINGTON – The American Lung Association has released its list of the 11 biggest ‘clean air’ events of 2010. Eight events marked milestones that provide greater protection from dangerous air pollutants, while three represented delays that have life-threatening consequences.
The Lung Association issued the list of ‘clean air’ events in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, the historic law that has helped protect Americans from breathing dirty, unhealthy air and an event celebrated on the list.
Passed by a bipartisan Congress in 1970, the Clean Air Act has succeeded in enabling the United States to cut emissions of the six most widespread air pollutants by 60 percent, while the economy grew by over 200 percent. In 2010 alone, the Clean Air Act has saved the lives of over 160,000 people, according to preliminary estimates.
“Everyone has a right to breathe healthy air. The Clean Air Act is a promise that our lawmakers made to the American people to make the air we all breathe safer. That promise must be kept,” said Charles D. Connor, President and CEO, American Lung Association.
America has much cleaner air than it did in 1970. The United States Environmental Protection Agency is tasked with enforcing the Clean Air Act and while progress was made this year on many fronts, delays have stalled efforts needed to provide the health protections promised under the Act.
The eleven biggest ‘clean air’ events of 2010 included the following:
- Old, dirty diesel engines cleaned up. Dirty diesel school buses and other diesel equipment across the nation got much cleaner thanks to major investments this year. Congress invested $300 million to clean up dirty diesel engines in 2009-2010 under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). Congress also invested in Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) programs, including $77 million in grants to clean up school buses, trucks, and construction equipment.
- Stronger limits on toxics from cement kilns. EPA took final action to significantly reduce emissions of mercury, acid gases, particulate matter and other air pollutants from 158 Portland cement kilns in the United States. Cleaning up these emissions will save as many as 2,500 lives each year by 2013.
- Cleanup of ocean-going ships steering for U.S. ports. Exhaust spewing from the diesel engines on large ocean-going ships can pollute areas hundreds of miles from the coast. EPA can now require all international ships within 200 nautical miles of U.S. waters to limit emissions similar to rules U.S. marine diesel engines must meet. These and other changes will save up to 30,000 lives a year by 2030 when the changes are fully in place.
- New limits on tailpipe exhaust. In 2010, the EPA put in place a historic national program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide and other air pollutants, from cars, SUVs and light trucks.
- First new limits in 39 years on two dangerous pollutants. For the first time since 1971, EPA strengthened the official limits, called the national air quality standard, on nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). The new standards will protect vulnerable individuals and communities who live or work near major roads and highways and near power plants.
- Cleanup proposed for power plants that spew smog and soot. In July, EPA proposed the Clean Air Transport Rule to cut emissions from power plants that create ozone (smog) and particle pollution (soot). This rule targets power plant pollution blown across state lines, helping reduce air pollution in communities in the Northeast, Midwest and Southeastern states.
- Delay in cleaning up toxic industrial pollution. In April, EPA proposed steps to reduce toxic air emissions of mercury, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and acid gases from industrial plants, commercial settings and large institutions. However, in December EPA announced it wanted to delay the final rule long past the original January 2011 deadline. Unfortunately, the delay means that vulnerable individuals and burdened communities near these facilities will continue to have to breathe these industrial poisons until EPA acts.
- Delay in protecting children’s health from ozone smog. In December, EPA announced that it would delay setting protective new limits for ground-level ozone (smog). Ozone is the most widespread pollutant in the nation, triggers children’s asthma attacks and can even kill. This announcement marked the third delay following the January 2010, proposal to strengthen the current limit set in 2008. EPA’s delay in setting a final national air quality standard means that cleanup measures across the country will be delayed at least six more months, continuing the risk to lives and health.
- Delay in protecting public health from particle pollution. EPA planned to propose new national limits, or standards, for particle pollution (soot) in November 2010, but delayed that announcement until February 2011. Particle pollution can shorten life, cause asthma attacks, heart attacks, and strokes. EPA’s delay means that more lives remain at risk of early death for longer, as particle levels remain much too high.
- Monitoring air pollution from Gulf oil spill. In response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the cleanup efforts during the spring and summer of 2010, EPA closely monitored air pollutants that posed threats to the health of residents and cleanup personnel along the Gulf Coast. EPA posted all the monitoring data on its website.
- 160,000 lives saved this year thanks to the Clean Air Act. Passed in 1970 by Congress, the Act has succeeded in enabling the U.S. to cut emissions of the six most widespread air pollutants by 60 percent since then, all while the economy grew by over 200 percent, according to EPA’s analysis. In 2010 alone, the Clean Air Act’s public health protections saved the lives of over 160,000 people, according to EPA’s preliminary estimates.