According to the EPA, emissions of criteria air pollutants and their precursors decreased by 77% between 1970 and 2019. Air quality in the United States is not improving. In reality, it has significantly improved since the passage of the Clean Air Act.
Air pollution is a leading cause of death worldwide. Every year, 7 million people die from air pollution-related illnesses such as asthma attacks, lung cancer, and heart disease. This number is equivalent to about one in ten deaths on average around the world. Most of these deaths are young people working outside the home, and they occur mostly in Asia Pacific regions such as India and China.
In the United States, air quality has improved but not enough to reduce mortality rates. The main reason for this lack of improvement is that state regulations are not consistent across the country. For example, California has some of the most stringent air quality standards in the nation, while Oklahoma allows coal mine waste to be dumped near residential areas without any regulation.
There are two types of air pollutants: fine particles that can enter your body through your lungs and cause health problems such as heart disease and asthma attacks large molecules that can enter your body through your nose or mouth and affect the environment. Fine particles come from sources such as vehicle exhaust, wood burning, and dust. Large molecule pollutants include ozone and carbon monoxide.
Air pollution is still one of the most serious environmental challenges in the United States. Despite significant progress since the 1970s attributable to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act, the number of Americans exposed to poor air quality has remained regularly over 125 million since 2013. More than half of these people live in just three states: California, Texas, and Florida.
The main sources of air pollution are traffic vehicles, power plants, and industrial facilities. In addition, natural events can lead to air pollution problems, such as wildfires that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Some studies have shown a connection between air pollution and increased risks of asthma attacks, heart disease, and premature death. Children are particularly vulnerable because their lungs are developing continuously, so every exposure counts.
In response to this public health threat, Congress has passed several laws over the last few decades aimed at reducing air pollution. These efforts have had some success -- particulate matter levels are down, while sulfur dioxide emissions are off by more than 50%. However, greenhouse gas emissions from fuel combustion have increased in recent years despite regulations designed to reduce them.
Air pollution is only one of many environmental issues facing America. Concerns about global warming, soil degradation, water contamination, endangered species, and more have led to a surge in interest in environmental activism over the past few decades.
Particulate pollution in the United States climbed by 5.5 percent between 2016 and 2018, after falling by more than 24 percent between 2009 and 2016. However, Muller points out that both researchers and the EPA utilize this data to better understand how air pollution impacts the public. He says there's a need for more research on the effects of air pollution on health, as well as efforts to reduce emissions from vehicles and other sources.
He adds that although there's some evidence of a connection between air pollution and increased hospitalizations and mortality, more studies are needed to determine exactly what impact these pollutants have on health.
The US continues to lead the world in terms of air quality despite recent improvements. The main source of pollution is traffic - especially diesel fuel combustion products such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulates matter. Air pollution from traffic is linked to increased rates of respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis, as well as heart disease. However, it is also estimated that up to 7 million people in the US suffer from air pollution-related illnesses each year.
In addition to reducing vehicle emissions, improving waste management and recycling practices, and changing how we build communities can all help improve air quality.