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Air Pollution Trends Show Cleaner Air, Growing Economy

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WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual report on air quality, tracking our nation’s progress in improving air quality since the passage of the Clean Air Act. “Our Nation’s Air: Status and Trends Through 2017” documents the considerable improvements in air quality across America over more than 45 years.

“Through federal and state implementation of the Clean Air Act and technological advances in the private sector, America has achieved one of the great public-private successes of our time – dramatically improving air quality and public health while simultaneously growing the nation’s population and economy,” said Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This report details a remarkable achievement that should be recognized, celebrated, and replicated around the world. A 73 percent reduction in any other social ill, such as crime, disease, or drug addiction, would lead the evening news.”

EPA’s most recent report highlights that, between 1970 and 2017, the combined emissions of six key pollutants dropped by 73 percent, while the U.S. economy grew more than three times. A closer look at more recent progress shows that between 1990 and 2017, average concentrations of harmful air pollutants decreased significantly across our nation:

  • Sulfur dioxide (1-hour) 88 percent
  • Lead (3-month average) 80 percent
  • Carbon monoxide (8-hour) 77 percent
  • Nitrogen dioxide (annual) 56 percent
  • Fine Particulate Matter (24-hour) 40 percent
  • Coarse Particulate Matter (24-hour) 34 percent and
  • Ground-level ozone (8-hour) 22 percent

Even with this success, some Americans still live in areas that do not fully meet national standards and EPA continues to work with states, local governments, tribes, and citizens – to further improve air quality across the entire country.

The report includes interactive graphics that enable citizens, policymakers, and stakeholders to view and download detailed information by pollutant, geographic location, and year.

Explore the report and download graphics and data here:

The Air Trends report is one of a number of EPA resources tracking pollution trends and showing U.S. progress in improving our environment. Learn more at the following sites:

Clean Air Markets Programs Progress Reports

Toxics Release Inventory Program

EPA's Report on the Environment