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Air Toxics Reduction

What is Being Done About Air Toxics?

Over the past decade, EPA and our regulatory partners at the State and local level have taken significant steps to dramatically reduce toxic air pollutants and provide important health protections for Americans nationwide. These steps include: reducing toxic emissions from industrial sources; reducing emissions from vehicles and engines through new stringent emission standards and cleaner burning gasoline; and addressing indoor air pollution though voluntary programs. See further details below about reductions from:

Industrial Source Programs

EPA has issued 96 air toxics regulations impacting over 174 categories of major industrial sources including chemical plants, oil refineries, aerospace manufacturers, and steel mills. The requirements in a number of these regulations took effect between 1999 and 2005. When fully implemented, these standards are projected to reduce annual air toxics emissions by about 1.7 million tons.

EPA has completed area source rules for all of the seventy categories. Measured from the 1990 baseline inventory, wel have subjected between 90 and 100 percent of the emissions of the urban air toxic pollutants to standards and have subjected 90 percent of the six potentially bio-accumulative toxic pollutants to standards. We project that in 2013 when all categories are expected to be in compliance, more than two million fewer tons of toxic pollutants will be emitted annually than would have occurred in the absence of this regulatory program.

EPA's area source program includes a community support component because communities with disproportionate risks may be able to reduce some toxic sources more quickly and effectively through local initiatives rather than through national regulations. For several years, we have provided funding and support in the way of tools, expertise and training to communities and Tribes to address their unique air toxics issues. The national-scale assessment is one such tool that communities often use as a component of a local air toxics evaluation to determine potential pollutants and sources for investigation.

Learn more about EPA's regulation of air toxics from industrial sources and EPA's area source program.

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Mobile Source Programs

EPA has established standards that will dramatically reduce emissions from new vehicles and engines over the next two decades. However, millions of diesel engines already in use will continue to emit large amounts of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and air toxics, which contribute to serious public health problems. EPA's Diesel Emissions Reduction Program (known as "DERA") was created to deploy pollution-controlling technologies in diesel fleets. Clean diesel projects yield an immediate public health and air quality benefit. EPA estimates that for every dollar invested in reducing diesel exhaust, a community may achieve up to 13 dollars in public health benefits. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/cleandiesel.

In the longer term, there will be substantial emission reductions in all mobile-source-related toxics as older vehicles and engines are replaced with cleaner ones that meet new emission standards. While many of the programs leading to these reductions were put in place primarily to reduce ozone and particulate matter through volatile organic compound (VOC) and diesel PM controls, and thereby to help states and localities come into attainment with the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), they have reduced and will continue to reduce emissions of air toxics very significantly. EPA's most recent program specifically targeted at air toxics emissions is the Control of Hazardous Air Pollutants from Mobile Sources (Mobile Source Air Toxics or “MSAT”) Final Rule, which was published February 26, 2007.

This rule will lower emissions of benzene and other air toxics in three ways:(1) by lowering the benzene content of gasoline (beginning in 2011); (2) by reducing exhaust emissions from passenger vehicles operating at cold temperatures (under 75 degrees), beginning in 2010; and (3) by reducing emissions that evaporate from, and permeate through, portable fuel containers (beginning in 2009).Taken together, the standards will reduce total emissions of mobile source air toxics by 330,000 tons in 2030, including 61,000 tons of benzene.

EPA estimates that existing programs will result in an over 65 percent reduction in emissions of gaseous air toxics from highway mobile sources between 1999 and 2030, despite large increases in vehicle miles traveled. There will also be large on-highway diesel PM emission reductions in that timeframe. The highway mobile source programs include fuel programs such as the 2007 MSAT rule’s benzene content standard; lead phase-out; reformulated gasoline (RFG) and anti-dumping standards; gasoline toxics emissions performance standards as required by the 2001 mobile source air toxics rule; and low-sulfur gasoline and diesel requirements. Vehicle programs include our 2007 MSAT rule; national low emission vehicle (NLEV) program; our Tier 2 motor vehicle emissions standards and gasoline sulfur control requirements; inspection and maintenance programs; on-board diagnostics; and our heavy-duty engine and vehicle standards.

As a result of the recent Locomotive and Commercial Marine Vessel rule, the Clean Air Nonroad Diesel Rule, and other nonroad standards, nonroad diesel PM emissions in 2030 will be reduced by over 80% from year 2001 levels. EPA has also recently finalized additional emissions control for small spark-ignition engines and recreational marine engines, as well as large ocean-going vessels. EPA estimates that gaseous air toxics emissions from nonroad equipment will be reduced almost 60% between 1999 and 2030, despite significant increases in activity. Locomotive and marine engine standards promulgated in 2008 will result in additional gaseous hydrocarbon reductions. These reductions are not reflected in this current estimate but will affect future NATA assessments.

In addition, on May 21, 2010, the President also directed EPA to review the adequacy of emissions standards for new motor vehicles and fuels for criteria pollutants and toxics. (This was part of a Presidential Memorandum largely focused on future vehicle and truck greenhouse gas (GHG) and fuel economy standards.) If EPA finds new regulations are necessary, the Agency is to promulgate such regulations as part of a comprehensive approach toward regulating motor vehicles. We are currently assessing potential new vehicle and fuel controls which would address air toxics.

Learn more about EPA's programs to reduce air toxics from mobile sources.

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Indoor Air Programs

EPA also has promoted programs that have reduced indoor air toxics. For example, close to two million homes have been built with radon resistant construction or fixed to reduce radon levels. Approximately 25,000 schools have implemented effective indoor air quality management plans, reducing children's exposure to pollutants; and health care providers, parents and caregivers are taking action to reduce children's exposure to secondhand smoke and other asthma triggers in the home. Learn more about indoor air activities.

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