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Air Toxics Reduction

Information provided for informational purposes onlyNote: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
What is Being Done About Air Toxics?

Over the past decade, EPA and our regulatory partners at the State and local level have taken significant steps to dramatically reduce toxic air pollutants and provide important health protections for Americans nationwide. These steps include: reducing toxic emissions from industrial sources; reducing emissions from vehicles and engines through new stringent emission standards and cleaner burning gasoline; and addressing indoor air pollution though voluntary programs. See further details below about reductions from:

Industrial Source Programs


EPA has issued standards impacting a large number of major industrial sources, such as chemical plants, oil refineries, aerospace manufacturers, and steel mills, as well as categories of smaller sources, such as dry cleaners, commercial sterilizers, secondary lead smelters, and chromium electroplating facilities. The requirements in many of these regulations take effect between 1996 and 2002. When fully implemented, these standards are projected to reduce annual air toxics emissions by about 1.5 million tons. For example:

The Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturing Industry rule (also know as the "Hazardous Organics NESHAP" or the "HON"): expected to reduce air toxics emitted by this industry by approximately 90 percent (510,000 tons) from 1994 levels.

The Municipal Waste Combustors rule: expected to reduce dioxin emissions from these sources by 99 percent from 1990 levels, and mercury emissions by 90 percent. These sources account for over 61 percent of the total dioxin emissions and almost 19 percent of the national man-made emissions of mercury.

Hospital/Medical Infectious Waste Incinerators rule: when implemented fully by September 2002, is expected to reduce dioxin emissions from these sources by 94 percent and mercury emissions by 95 percent. These sources account for 11 percent of the total dioxin emissions and 10 percent of the national man-made emissions of mercury.

Mobile Source Programs

Many motor vehicle and fuel emission control programs of the past have reduced air toxics. EPA has recently created several programs that further reduce air toxics emissions from a wide variety of mobile sources. These include our reformulated gasoline (RFG) and anti-dumping standards, which have substantially reduced mobile source air toxics in many areas of the country. As a result of its recent mobile source air toxics rulemaking, the Agency now requires refiners to maintain current levels of overcompliance with these standards. Other programs which have achieved substantial reductions include our national low emission vehicle (NLEV) program; our Tier 2 motor vehicle emissions standards and gasoline sulfur control requirements; inspection and maintenance programs, on-board diagnostics, and our heavy-duty engine and vehicle standards and on-highway diesel fuel sulfur control requirements. In addition, certain other mobile source control programs have been specifically aimed at reducing toxics emissions (i.e., our lead phase-out programs).

While these mobile source standards were put in place primarily to reduce ozone and particulate matter inventories through volatile organic compound (VOC) and diesel particulate matter (diesel PM) controls, and thereby to help states and localities come into attainment with the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), they have reduced and will continue to reduce on-highway emissions of gaseous air toxics very significantly. Results of recent modeling indicate that between 1996 and 2007, current and planned programs will reduce emissions of mobile source air toxics by about one million tons, or about 35% (See The Projection of Mobile Source Air Toxics from 1996 to 2007: Emissions and Concentrations for more information on these projections). Furthermore, in its recent mobile source air toxics rule, EPA projects that, between 1990 and 2020, these programs will reduce on-highway emissions of benzene, formaldehyde, 1,3-butadiene and acetaldehyde by 67 to 76 percent (See the Technical Support Document: Control of Emissions of Hazardous Air Pollutants from Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Fuels for more information). There will be substantial reductions from nonroad mobile sources as well.

Moreover, EPA has issued regulations to control diesel PM emissions from highway vehicles, including the recent light- and heavy-duty vehicle programs. By 2020, EPA expects to see on-highway diesel PM emission reductions of 94 percent from 1990 levels. In addition, the Agency is developing a regulation to control emissions from diesel-powered nonroad engines. Finally, EPA is assisting states, communities and citizens in identifying and implementing voluntary programs, such as diesel retrofits, to achieve additional reductions.

Learn more about EPA's programs to reduce air toxics from mobile sources.

Indoor Air Programs

EPA also has promoted programs that have reduced indoor air toxics. For example, 350,000 homes have been fixed to reduce radon levels. Through "Tools for Schools," we have reduced children's exposure to toxics in 4,000 schools across the country; and, in part because of our education campaigns, hundreds of thousands of children now live in smoke-free homes. More information about indoor air activities is available.

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