The US passed the Clean Air Act (CAA) in 1970. Since then, this piece of legislation has drastically changed how American industries and people interact with the environment. The CAA formed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which received the power to regulate pollutant production, whether nitrogen oxides or noise. To better understand the importance of the Clean Air Act, read this guide to its impact over the last 50 years.

History of the Clean Air Act

A brief history will illuminate the Clean Air Act’s original purpose. It passed in 1970 under the Nixon administration with only one vote opposed. It continued its run of bipartisan support when George W. Bush made environmental sensitivity a staple of his 1988 campaign and signed a major 1990 amendment to the bill. Originally, the CAA charged the EPA with monitoring air quality, setting future air standards, enforcing these requirements, and promoting future environmental research.

Industrial and Vehicular Sources Emit Fewer Pollutants

Over the last 50 years, the Clean Air Act has been integral in lowering industrial and vehicular emissions. This is possible because the technologies in each have evolved significantly. Industrial plants integrate various helpful combustion interventions: Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) chemically reduces harmful nitrogen dioxides after they’re formed, and dry low Emission (DLE) prevents nitrogen from forming during a reaction. Measures to lessen another pollutant, sulfur dioxide, involve removing sulfur from coal before it’s combusted. On the automobile side, the popularization of electric cars and the advent of the automotive catalytic converter continue to drive CO2 emissions down.

Overall, according to the EPA, many major pollutant levels plummeted, with nitrogen dioxide decreasing 56 percent and sulfur dioxide decreasing 88 percent. The CAA sparked these crucial industrial and automotive innovations and continues to challenge industries to be environmentally responsible.

Noise Pollution Addressed

The Clean Air Act is not only responsible for reducing air pollutants. Along with the 1972 Noise Control Act, it also empowers the EPA to regulate noise pollution and its harmful effects. These pieces of legislation catalyzed the implementation of many noise abatement measures in industrial facilities, one example being exhaust gas silencer installation to prevent emitted stack exhaust noise. Also, significant research on the effects of living in high-noise neighborhoods continues to drive the fight against noise pollution.

Economic Growth

Another illustration of the Clean Air Act’s importance, as pollutants drop, is that the economy has shown signs of sustainable growth. One of the major reasons is, with better air quality, fewer people come down with illnesses that take them away from work. The Clean Air Act is responsible for limiting absenteeism, boosting productivity, and decreasing the cost of medical treatment because people don’t require services as often. Looking to the future, the continued need to develop environmental protection technology means there are opportunities for economic growth in this sector.