The effects of the clean air act todayMonday, May 05, 2014 by: Greener Ideal
Photo: Matt Swern
It’s been more than 50 years since the government has laid the framework of the Clean Air Act. It can be traced back to 1955 when the Air Pollution Control Act was enacted by the Congress, aimed at curbing smoke emissions and air pollutants that were found to be hazardous to public health and welfare.
The Evolution of the Clean Air Act
This Act has evolved dynamically through the years. In 1970, amendments were introduced to pave the way for more comprehensive regulations that could help companies minimize emissions and use green energy. Scientific findings about the health risks associated with air pollutants grew, leading to further enhancements in the Act.
It was soon discovered that certain chemicals not only damage one’s health, but also deplete the ozone layer, which protects the green earth against solar ultraviolet radiation. This results to a host of biological effects such as skin cancers, cataracts, and suppression of the immune system.
In addition, the relationship between air pollutants and the increase in acid rain was established, leading the Congress to seek further measures that not only control the damage but reverse the effects as well. As we are now well into the 21st century, the most pressing question is: Has the Clean Air Act been successful in creating a clean and green environment?
Know your Pollutants
Before we delve into the effectiveness of the program, perhaps a little refresher is in order. Knowing the various kinds of pollutants that permeate the air would give us a better understanding of why they need to be controlled.
There are generally six criteria of air pollutants: particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, and photochemical oxidants. The Environmental Protection Agency was tasked to promulgate laws that would minimize or eliminate their production.
Particulate matter (PM) are minute particles that float in the atmosphere. They usually originate from natural sources such as forest fires and volcanoes, but they can also come from human activities such as power plants and incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. Inhaling the ashes, soot, and smoke produced by these activities can lead to lung cancer and adverse pulmonary conditions.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas that is also a byproduct of fossil fuels. Heavy concentrations of CO can be found in cities due to the large number of vehicles, power washers, and back-up generators. Due to its minute size, CO can easily enter the lungs and the blood stream, resulting to poisoning that range from dizziness and nausea to seizures and impaired mental state.
Other chemicals such as nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, and photochemical oxidants are also fatal to humans, animals, and the overall green environment.
What has been the progress so far?
Critics are quick to point out that the implementation of the Clean Air Act has been marred with high costs which is a deterrent to growing the economy. The expensiveness of acquiring green, environment-friendly machines and equipment has stifled profitability which is needed to sustain the economic demands posed by America’s ever-increasing population.
However, there’s also a general consensus across the board that without these regulations, unbridled greenhouse gas emissions and chemical production could have resulted to high mortality across the United States and the world as a whole. Acid rain, which was a major concern in previous decades, was greatly reduced despite the surge in modern electronic devices and machines.
Today, the thrust is to not only improve air quality, but to draw up cost-effective plans that also address global warming. It’s a long road ahead, but if recent progress is any indication, we may very well be on our way to restoring the earth’s green environment.