Monday, May 11, 2015

Things Do Get Better: Air Pollution Edition

Comparison of Growth Areas and Emissions, showing that between 1980 and 2013, gross domestic product increased 145 percent, vehicle miles traveled increased 95 percent, energy consumption increased 25 percent, and U.S. population grew by 39 percent. During the same time period, total emissions of the six principal air pollutants dropped by 62 percent. The graph also shows that between 1980 and 2012, CO2 emissions increased by 14 percent.(Source: US Environmental Protection Agency)

THC always scratches his head when someone complains about how bad pollution is and how it's getting worse.  The chart above from USEPA shows what's happened in air pollution in America since the Clean Air Act and Amendments were enacted in the 1970s.

Bottom line is emissions decreased by 62% even as population grew, the economy got bigger and we used more energy.

The decrease in emissions meant huge improvements in air quality.  From EPA these are the improvements in air quality from 1980 through 2013 for the six air pollutants targeted by the Clean Air Act:

Carbon Monoxide      84%
Ozone                        33%
Lead                          92%
Nitrogen Dioxide       58%
Particulates               34%
Sulfur Dioxide           81%

The reductions have occurred on a continuing basis; from 2000 to 2013:

Carbon Monoxide     59%
Ozone                       18%
Lead                          60%
Nitrogen Dioxide       40%
Particulates               30%
Sulfur Dioxide           62% 

In addition, emissions of Volatile Organic Chemicals (think solvents) were reduced by 54% and emissions of Air Toxics declined by 62% in just 18 years from 1990 to 2008. 

Something to remember the next time you see an article claiming that some type of illness is on the increase because of air pollution.

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