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Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act

Second Prospective Study - 1990 to 2020

About This Report

Second Prospective Study

Cover image of the summary report

In March 2011, EPA issued the Second Prospective Report which looked at the results of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020. According to this study, the central benefits estimate exceeds costs by a factor of more than 30 to one. The report was updated in April 2011.

Healthier Living

Emissions control programs that reduce air pollution from smokestacks and tailpipes provide enormous air quality and health benefits today, and the benefits will grow over time as programs take their full effect.

In 2020, the Clean Air Act Amendments will prevent over 230,000 early deaths. Most of the economic benefits (about 85 percent) are attributable to reductions in premature mortality associated with reductions in ambient particulate matter.

  Year 2010
(in cases)
Year 2020
(in cases)
Adult Mortality - particles 160,000 230,000
Infant Mortality - particles 230 280
Mortality - ozone 4300 7100
Chronic Bronchitis 54,000 75,000
Heart Disease - Acute Myocardial Infarction 130,000 200,000
Asthma Exacerbation 1,700,000 2,400,000
Emergency Room Visits 86,000 120,000
School Loss Days 3,200,000 5,400,000
Lost Work Days 13,000,000 17,000,000
The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments prevent:

This chart shows the health benefits of the Clean Air Act programs that reduce levels of fine particles and Ozone.

The remaining benefits are roughly equally divided among three categories of human health and environmental improvement: Preventing premature mortality associated with ozone exposure; preventing morbidity, including acute myocardial infarctions and chronic bronchitis; and improving the quality of ecological resources and other aspects of the environment, the largest component of which is improved visibility.

A Good Investment for America

The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments programs are projected to result in a net improvement in U.S. economic growth and the economic welfare of American households.

Our central benefits estimate exceeds costs by a factor of more than 30 to one, and the high benefits estimate exceeds costs by 90 times. Even the low benefits estimate exceeds costs by about three to one.

Picture of a small circle representing costs inside of a large circle representing benefits. The benefits circle is about thirty times as large as the costs circle, demostrating a good return on investment.

This net improvement in economic welfare is projected to occur because cleaner air leads to better health and productivity for American workers as well as savings on medical expenses for air pollution-related health problems. The beneficial economic effects of these two improvements alone are projected to more than offset the expenditures for pollution control.

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