40 Years of Achievements, 1970-2010
On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans one in every ten Americans at the time stood up to demand a cleaner and healthier environment. This first Earth Day was one of the largest grassroots demonstrations in the nations history and it worked. By the end of the year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created and tasked with both cleaning up the damage already done to the environment, and establishing guidelines to help Americans make a cleaner and safer environment a reality. Soon after, Congress passed the Clean Air Act, setting national air quality, auto emission and anti-pollution standards. Two short years later the Clean Water Act became law, followed by decades of new innovations that helped to more than double the size of our economy while actually cutting pollution and making the country healthier.
The vast environmental improvements made in the last 40 years have benefitted every single American. As we look forward to the next 40 years, it is with renewed commitment to promote healthier families, cleaner communities, and a stronger America.
The Places We Call Home
Cleaning Up Our Communities
Environmental protection is about protecting people in the places where they live, play, work, and learn. A clean, safe environment is vital to the health and economic prosperity of every community. Over the years, EPA has worked to clean up polluted and contaminated sites. We are beautifying communities, protecting the health of local residents, and in many cases, restoring abandoned areas to be used for parks, open space, and new businesses.
EPA is getting toxic pollution out of your communities, and putting jobs and opportunities back in.
We are recycling more: American families and businesses went from recycling about 10 percent of trash in 1980 to more than 33 percent in 2008. We \recycle 83 million tons of trash annually thats like cutting green house gas emissions from more than 33 million automobiles.
And we are cleaning up communities: EPA has cleaned 67 percent of contaminated Superfund sites nationwide, and has helped create jobs for more than 3,300 Americans with average starting hourly wage at $14.26 to help clean and transform contaminated Brownfield sites into bustling neighborhoods and business centers.
The Air We Breathe
Improving Air Quality
The average American breathes more than 11,000 liters of air enough to fill a tanker truck every day! Thats why air pollution puts us at risk for serious health problems like heart disease, asthma, cancer and other illnesses. In the 40 years since the Clean Air Act went into effect, weve reduced 60% of the dangerous air pollutants that cause smog, acid rain, lead poisoning and more. clean air innovations like smokestack scrubbers and catalytic converters in automobiles have helped. Today, new cars are 98 percent cleaner than in 1970 in terms of smog-forming pollutants. This change has made Americans healthier.
During the first 20 years of the Clean Air Act, health benefits increased steadily from 1970 to 1990. In the year 1990, clean air programs prevented
- 205,000 premature deaths
- 672,000 cases of chronic bronchitis
- 21,000 cases of heart disease
- 843,000 asthma attacks
- 189,000 cardiovascular hospitalizations
- 10.4 million lost I.Q. points in children from lead reductions
- 18 million child respiratory illnesses
The progress on cleaner air continued after 1990. Preliminary EPA analysis shows that in 2010, Clean Air Act fine particle (soot) and ozone (smog) programs implemented since the 1990 Amendments will have prevented more than 160,000 premature deaths.
Our Water Resources
Protecting America's Water
Americans use 100 gallons of water in their homes each day making clean water critical to our daily lives. Water is also important to the environment, culture, economy and history of many communities across the country.
Forty years ago the Cuyahoga River in Ohio was so filled with oily waste and industrial pollution that it actually caught fire! The EPA was formed to make sure that level of pollution never returns. Today, we are working to protect the water resources that keep our families healthy, our communities clean, and our country strong. EPA is on the job but every American has a role to play in conserving the water we use and keeping water supplies safe for drinking, fishing, and swimming.
More pollution is being treated: Sixty-percent more Americans were served by publicly-owned wastewater treatment facilities from 1968 to 2008.
Waterways are clearer: In a study of lakes from the 1970s to 2007, water quality improved. Half the lakes saw less nutrient concentrations (forming green sludge) and a quarter saw improved trophic status.
Today, more than 2,000 water bodies identified as impaired in 2002 now meet water quality standards.
Public drinking water is cleaner: The number of Americans receiving water that met health standards went from 79 percent, in 1993, to 92 percent, in 2008.
Americans are saving money: WaterSense-labeled products help consumers save 9.3 billion gallons of water and 1 billion kWh annually, and helped consumers save more than $55 million in water and sewer bills in 2008.