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PR NEW EPA REPORT STRESSES NEED FOR CONTINUED AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT
Release Date: 01/23/98
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, JANUARY 23, 1998
NEW EPA REPORT STRESSES NEED FOR CONTINUED AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT
EPA today released its annual report on air quality trends showing that while air quality continues to improve, approximately 46 million Americans in 1996 lived in areas that did not meet the ambient air quality standards for at least one of six major pollutants: carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone (smog), particulate matter and sulfur dioxide .
“Americans have made significant progress in improving our air quality and protecting public health, but challenges still remain. Too many of our citizens still breathe unhealthy air,” said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. “The recently enacted public health standards for smog and soot will help take the nation further down the road toward cleaner air.”
The most current monitoring data show the following improvements in ambient air quality between 1995 and 1996:
-- Carbon monoxide concentrations decreased seven percent.
-- Lead concentrations remained unchanged.
-- Nitrogen dioxide concentrations remained unchanged.
-- Ozone (smog) concentrations decreased six percent.
-- Particulate matter (dirt, dust, soot) concentrations decreased four percent.
-- Sulfur dioxide concentrations remained unchanged.
The most current monitoring data show the following improvements in ambient air quality between 1987 and 1996:
-- Carbon monoxide concentrations decreased 37 percent.
-- Lead concentrations decreased 75 percent.
-- Nitrogen dioxide concentrations decreased 10 percent.
-- Ozone (smog) concentrations decreased 15 percent.
-- Particulate matter (dirt, dust, soot) concentrations decreased 25 percent between 1988 and 1996 (10-year trend data are not available, because the particulate matter standard changed in 1987).
-- Sulfur dioxide concentrations decreased 37 percent.
EPA and the states recently established a new monitoring network in 21 of the smoggiest cities in the country. These monitors measure concentrations of many specific compounds that contribute to ozone formation. Many of these compounds are also toxic pollutants, which are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects. The monitoring data show that, over the last three years, average concentrations of six air toxics have decreased. There has been a significant reduction in benzene levels over this period. Benzene, a major industrial chemical, is classified by EPA as a known human carcinogen, because of its link to adult leukemia. Early analyses indicate these reductions are likely a result of reduced emissions of volatile organic compounds from vehicles using reformulated gasoline.
At the same time that air pollution has been decreasing significantly between 1970 and 1996, gross domestic product increased 104 percent, U.S. population increased 29 percent, and vehicle miles traveled increased 121 percent.
To address the problem of long-range regional transport of ozone from state to state , EPA proposed a rule in October that will significantly reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in 22 eastern states and the District of Columbia (NOx emissions from smokestacks and tailpipes contribute to the formation of ozone, as well as to the creation of nitrogen dioxide and acid rain).
In July 1997, EPA revised the ozone and particulate matter standards to better protect public health. As implementation of the revised standards begins and monitoring data become available, EPA will track air quality trends for these standards in future trends reports.
Paper copies of the report are available from the Emissions, Monitoring, and Analysis Division (MD-14), Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, N.C. 27711; phone 919-541-5558. Electronic copies of the report are computer-accessible immediately through EPA's web site on the Internet at https://www.epa.gov/oar/aqtrnd96/.
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