Academic Master

Environmental Science

Air Quality and Clean Air Act of 1970

Air quality may be affected by climate change, and climate change can be affected by air quality. Rising ground-level ozone due to climate change-related atmospheric warming poses future compliance risks with ozone limits in numerous places. However, studies are being conducted to better understand how climate change affects other air contaminants, such as particle matter. Pollutants released into the atmosphere may alter weather patterns. Climate forcers is a common term for pollutants like greenhouse gases. Although atmospheric ozone has a warming impact, individual components of particulate matter may have either a warming or cooling effect. Black carbon, a combustion-derived particulate pollution, contributes to global warming, while sulfate particles have the opposite effect and help to cool the planet’s atmosphere. To address the issue of air quality and climate change, the U.S. enacted the Clean Air Act in 1970, which proved highly effective in mitigating the severity of the discussed issue.

Background and History

Air emissions from fixed and moving sources are subject to government regulation under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The Act empowers the “Environmental Protection Agency” to set “National Ambient Air Quality Standards” to safeguard the public’s health and wellbeing and reduce exposure to harmful air pollutants (U.S. EPA, 2018). The Act required all states to develop and implement NAAQS by 1975 in response to concerns about the hazards to human health and welfare caused by certain persistent air pollutants (U.S. EPA, 2018). Along with these pollution limits, governments were given the task of developing “State Implementation Plans (SIPs)” for all of the state’s eligible industrial sources (U.S. EPA, 2018). After some regions of the nation missed their NAAQS targets, the Act was revised in 1977 and again in 1990 to establish new targets (U.S. EPA, 2018).

This Act intends to provide guidelines for regulating air pollution emissions, as set out in Section 112. Early on, the CAA relied on a risk-based approach that resulted in the development of just a small number of recommendations before 1990. As of 1990, technological requirements for significant and specific kinds of area sources have to be published thanks to an amendment to Section 112 of the CAA. For this definition, any fixed facility that releases or has the prospectiveofreleasing a minimum 10 metric tons per year of aunsafe and hazardous air pollutant, or 25 metric tons per year of a combination of such pollutants, is considered a major source (U.S. EPA, 2018). The term “area source” describes any non-major, stationary source.

According to Section 112, the EPA must set emission guidelines for extensive facilities requiring drastic cuts to harmful air pollution. The EPA must evaluate the standards and make changes to eliminate residual risk eight years after establishing the technology-based MACTcriteria for a source category (U.S. EPA, 2018). The Act mandates that all states implement programs to reduce air pollution by limiting emissions from stationary sources like power plants and vehicles, setting ambient air quality standards, mandating emission controls on regulated facilities when possible, requiring control devices on motor vehicles, and regulating transportation fuels and appliances.


The Clean Air Act is crucial legislation that has had far-reaching effects on the natural world, human health, and the American economy. The CAA has helped to reduce air pollution by setting limits on pollution levels and requiring permits for factories that emit particulates or volatile organic compounds into the air. It has also called for increased research into ways to reduce smog, including research into reducing emissions from cars and trucks. The CAA also created a fund designed to compensate people who have been harmed by air pollution. In addition, the Clean Air Act protects human health by requiring states to monitor air quality and ensure that people are not exposed to excessive levels of air pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, or ozone.

The Clean Air Act has helped improve air quality in many parts of America over the past four decades by reducing sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-burning boilers used in homes and businesses by 30%; nitrogen oxide emissions by 70%; mercury discharges by 89%; carbon monoxide discharges by 90%; particulate matter (PM) concentrations by 99%; ozone concentrations by 99%; lead levels by 99% and benzene concentrations by 99% (Gardiner, 2020). Additionally, to these advantages, the Clean Air Act has contributed to a 15% decrease in national air pollution during 1970-2000 (Gardiner, 2020). It has also resulted in cleaner water supplies because fewer people are exposed daily due to improved water quality standards set by various state agencies.

The Act also set up a system of permits for companies that produce toxic substances such as lead and asbestos. These permits are required by law before new facilities can be built, or existing facilities can move forward with expansion projects. This law helped improve public health by reducing exposure to dangerous gases like carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide that could cause lung damage and heart disease. It also lowered levels of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere, which helps protect plant life against drought conditions. However, Ross (2011) criticizes the Clean Air Act as being too strict an approach to environmental regulation; others argue that it has not gone far enough in protecting the environment and human health.

Your Position 

I strongly endorse the Clean Air Act because of its positive impacts on the U.S. environment and society. It reduces the number of premature deaths and illnesses caused by air pollution and make the American workforce healthier and more productive. The Act has paved the way for a new age of more significant public health and cleaner air since its enactment in the early 1970s by putting strict limits on harmful air pollutants from cars, trucks, power plants, and factories. Some of the present benefits of cleaner air for the U.S. economy include a decrease of up to 370,000 premature deaths and an annual decrease of up to 189,000 hospital admissions due to cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses (Mui & Levin, 2020). The CAA’s annual benefits outweigh the cost of these regulations by as much as 32 to 1.

Climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful air pollutants, and delicate particle matter, will be cut by millions of tons in 2020 (Mui & Levin, 2020). In addition to reducing pollutants, the Clean Air Act has shown promising indicators of sustainable economic development (Lahbabi, 2020). One of the main reasons is that fewer people will get sick and miss work if air quality improves. When individuals do not get sick as frequently, they spend less money on medical care and less time away from work because of the Clean Air Act. There will always be a market for advanced environmental protection technologies, which bodes well for the industry’s long-term prospects.


To conclude, the Clean Air Act is widely considered as one of the most fruitful pieces of environmental legislation enacted by the United States Government. The Clean Air Act has been protecting our air quality for forty years. Reducing air pollution has improved public health, saved money, and protected the U.S. economy, saving thousands of lives. Carbon pollution and climate change are serious problems that need an immediate response using the Clean Air Act’s tried-and-true method of pollution management. This law is effective and may be used alone or in tandem with other climate laws. The Center is exerting significant effort to prevent the dismantling of the Clean Air Act and ensure that it is effectively implemented.


Gardiner, B. (2020). The Clean Air Act has saved millions of lives and trillions of dollars. Environment. act- saved-millions-of-lives-trillions-of-dollars

Lahbabi, J. (2020). The Importance of the Clean Air Act. SVI Industrial.

Mui, S., & Levin, A. (2020). Clearing the Air: The Benefits of the Clean Air Act. NRDC.

Ross, R. L. (2011). A Fatal Flaw in the Clean Air Act: How the Clean Air Act Fails to Adequately Regulate Ambient Concentrations of Hazardous Air Pollutants. SSRN Electronic Journal.

U.S. EPA. (2018). Summary of the Clean Air Act | US EPA. US EPA.



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