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News Releases from HeadquartersAir and Radiation (OAR)

Air Quality Continues to Improve, While U.S. Economy Continues to Grow

08/02/2017
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WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual report on air quality, showing the significant progress the United States has made to improve air quality across the country. “Our Nation’s Air: Status and Trends Through 2016” documents the steady and significant progress made in improving air quality across America, over more than 45 years under the Clean Air Act.

This progress is often overlooked; the Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies has called it “The Greatest Story Seldom Told,” explaining that “Through the Clean Air Act’s framework of cooperative federalism, hard-working state and local air agencies have been responsible for tremendous progress in virtually every measure of air quality.”

EPA’s most recent report highlights that, between 1970 and 2016, the combined emissions of six key pollutants dropped by 73 percent, while the U.S. economy grew more than three times. A closer look at more recent progress shows that between 1990 and 2016, national concentration averages of harmful air pollutants decreased considerably:
•    Lead (3-month average) ↓99 percent
•    Carbon monoxide (8-hour) ↓ 77 percent
•    Sulfur dioxide (1-hour) ↓ 85 percent
•    Nitrogen dioxide (annual) ↓ 56 percent
•    Ground-level ozone (8-hour) ↓ 22 percent
•    Coarse Particulate Matter (24-hour) ↓ 39 percent and Fine Particulate Matter (24-hour) ↓ 44 percent  

“Despite this success, there is more work to be done,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Nearly 40 percent of Americans are still living in areas classified as ‘non-attainment’ for failing to achieve national standards.  EPA will continue to work with states, tribes, and local air agencies to help more areas of the country come into compliance.”

This year’s update to the report includes new, interactive graphics that enable citizens, policymakers, and stakeholders to view and download detailed information by pollutant, geographic location, and time period.   

Explore the interactive report and download graphics and data here: https://gispub.epa.gov/air/trendsreport/2017/

To view the Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies' report: http://www.csg.org/aapca_site/documents/GreatestStory4-17-17.pdf