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Clean Air: Health Benefits

Although often invisible, air pollution threatens both human health and the environment. It can cause cancer and damage immune, respiratory and neurological systems, and create acid rain and smog. EPA makes our air cleaner by enforcing the Clean Air Act. Through its enforcement action in FY 2010, EPA has obtained commitments from Clean Air Act violators to reduce emissions of air pollutants by and estimated 410 million pounds. The estimated health benefits associated with these reductions in air pollutants include:

Health Benefits from Reductions in Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Particulate Matter

EPA estimates that the top twelve EPA air enforcement actions that concluded in FY 2010 will reduce over 390 million pounds per year of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), and particulate matter once all controls have been put into place. These common air pollutants have been associated with asthma, reduced lung function, bronchitis, heart attacks, and premature death. EPA estimates that the reductions from these twelve air enforcement case cases will result in health benefits valued at $6.2-$15 billion, including reducing approximately

  • 680-1,700 premature deaths in people with heart or lung disease,
  • 87,000 fewer days of missed work or school, and
  • 12,000 fewer cases of exacerbated asthma.

Health Benefits from Reductions of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs)

Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) are a set of 187 identified pollutants that are known or suspected to cause cancer, other serious health effects, or adverse environmental effects. People exposed to toxic air pollutants at sufficient concentrations and durations may have an increased chance of getting cancer or experiencing neurological, reproductive, and developmental health effects. EPA’s 2010 air enforcement actions are estimated to reduce nearly four million pounds of HAPs per year, including more than two million pounds of known or probable human carcinogens. As a result of these actions, people who work, live, and play in communities around these facilities will have significantly decreased lifetime cancer risk from air toxics.

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