Chapter 20 Section 7: Air Pollution Solutions and Laws/Regulations
Preventing and Reducing Air Pollution
Key Concept: Clean Air Acts in the United States have greatly reduced outdoor air
Clean Air Acts of 1970, 1977, & 1990- Government established regulations for
key pollutants that each state must follow.
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)- Six criteria pollutants that the
EPA regulates. These include: Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulfur
Dioxide, Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM), Ozone, and Lead.
The EPA has also set standards for more than 188 hazardous air pollutants
(HAPs) that are known to cause serious health and ecological effects.
o You can become informed about the potential HAPs in your area by
obtaining the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). The government must
release this document by a law passed by Congress in 1986. Requires
23,000 refineries, power plants, hard rock mines, chemical manufacturers,
and factories to report their toxin releases and waste management methods
These acts have decreased the emission of air pollutants by 48% between 1970
and 2002 according to a 2003 EPA report.
How Can U.S. Air Pollution Laws Be Improved?
Key Concept: Environmentalists suggest that we put forth more effort in reducing air
There a two reasons why the level of air pollution has reduced dramatically: 1)
U.S. citizens have insisted that laws be passed to improve the quality of air and 2)
the country was affluent enough to afford such controls and improvements.
Environmentalists have found several flaws in the Clean Air Act:
o Continuing to rely mostly on pollution cleanup rather than prevention
o The failure of Congress to increase fuel-efficiency standards for cars, sport
utility vehicles, and light trucks.
o Inadequate regulation of emissions from inefficient two-cycle gasoline
engines. Examples: Lawn Mowers, Leaf blowers, chain saws, and jet skis.
o There is little or no regulation of air pollution from oceangoing ships in
American ports. Example: A single ship emits more air pollution than
2,000 diesel trucks.
o Failed to do much about reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other
greenhouse gases and failed to deal seriously with indoor air pollution.
o There is a major need for better enforcement of the Clean Air Acts.
This would save about 6,000 lives each year and prevent 140,000
asthma attacks in the U.S.
Case Study: Using the Marketplace to Reduce Pollution-Emissions Trading
The Clean Air Act of 1990 has permitted an emissions trading policy, which
allows power plant companies to purchase and sell sulfur dioxide pollution rights.
Negative Points: Environmentalists think that this method allows utilities with
older, dirtier power plants to buy their way out and keep emitting high levels of
But between 1980 and 2002, the emissions trading system reduced 40% of sulfur
dioxide emissions in the United States.
Reducing Outdoor Air Pollution from Coal-Burning Facilities
Pollution can be reduced at the input stage by using clean coal technologies.
o Fluidized-bed combustion: reduces pollutant emissions while also burning
coal more efficiently by blowing a stream of hot air into a boiler to burn a
mixture of powdered coal and crushed limestone.
o Coal gasification: Has a mixture of advantages and serious disadvantages.
Environmentalists are gravely concerned with the level of coal pollution that is
reaching the troposphere and want to create more ways to prevent this from
Case Study: Air Pollution from Older Coal-Burning Facilities
There is a problem in the United States of whether older coal-burning plants
should have to meet the same air pollution standards as new plants.
A rule established in the Clean Air Act called the New Source Review now
requires these older facilities to upgrade pollution control equipment when they
expand or modernize their facilities.
o Many facilities have gone against this rule by expanding the plants and
calling it maintenance and lobbying elected officials to have this rule
How Can We Reduce Outdoor Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles? Emphasize
Motor Vehicles are the main culprits in the production of photochemical
One way to reduce vehicular pollution is to get old vehicles which have
higher pollution off our roads
The EPA estimates: 10% of the vehicles on the road in the U.S. emit 50-70%
vehicular air pollutants
One solution would be to pay people to take older cars off the road and
purchase a newer more environmentally friendly car
A team of engineers working with funds received from the National Science
Foundation found a new way for oil companies, power plants, and cars to
remove sulfur impurities from diesel, jet fuel, and gasoline using chemicals
The absorption process also works at room temperature and pressure and
does not require a catalytic converter, making the process more economical
In the next 10-20 years it is said that air pollution from vehicles should
decrease from use of partial zero-emission vehicles
However more developing countries are beginning to use and still are using
older vehicles in urban areas
What Should We Do About Ultrafine Particles? Another Controversy
The Argument has to due with the removing of these ultrafine particles or
reducing of emissions because their affect on human health.
Invisible particles especially fine particles with diameters less than 10
microns and ultrafine particles with less than 2.5 microns have health
They can not be captured by many air pollution control devices and can even
penetrate the reparatory systems natural defenses against air pollution,
and also can carry toxic cancer causing chemicals
These particles once in the lungs can cause lung irritation, asthma attacks,
and lung cancer. These issues than hinder the bloods uptake of oxygen and
release of CO2 which can cause the heart to become strained and also death
from heart disease
It is said that these particles prematurely kill 65,000-200,000 people in U.S.
If solved the World Bank estimates that it would prevent 300,000-700,000
deaths per year world wide
In 1997 the EPA put stricter standards on the emissions of these ultrafine
particles which cost about 120 billion dollars a year to maintain including
health issues and other benefits associated that must be paid for
However many believe it is all based on flimsy evidence and are trying to
post pone its implementation or have it overturned because of its 200
billion dollar implementation cost
How Can We Reduce Indoor Air Pollution? Emphasize Prevention
It has a greater impact on human health than does outdoor air pollution
One possibility is the building of greenhouses on the rooftops of
buildings through which building air can be circulated
Another possibility is the implementing of better stoves in developing
countries which are more efficient and remove wastes from the home
However no standards can be set and not every building can be
monitored there are many easy ways to prevent indoor air pollution
What Is The Next Step? Individuals Matter
One of our main emphasis is to reduce indoor air pollution in developing
Since 1970 many developed countries have enacted laws and
regulations that have reduced outdoor air pollution
Strong political pressure from individuals and groups helped to enact,
fund, and implement these laws and regulations
The current laws are the output approach to control pollution, but
many believe the next step would be preventing air pollution all
The only way to get these ideas and plans implemented for preventing
pollution is once again pressure our elected officials whether it be
individually or as a group, so that we can get the funding and support