As far back as 1970, air pollution issues began to be recognized as a major concern around the world. America’s response started with the implementation of the Clean Air Act. The goal of the legislation was to ensure the domestic industrial companies began to do their part to recognize the harms of greenhouse gases and work to limit their negative impact on the environment. Since then, innovative pollution technology has been targeted at reducing pollution through the regulation of motor vehicles and industrial sources.
By cutting air pollution, public health realizes a host of beneficial results, including fewer respiratory and other related issues and premature deaths of young people, especially those who work in risky industries. As a whole, we can also lower the burden of population-wide medical expenses and lost hours of work due to chronic illness and disease.
Although we are not sure how far air pollution initiatives can go to foster better health and positive consequences, what we do know is if we don’t continue to make significant changes, pollution will continue to impact not just our environment, but our survival. Research tells us that as early as 2030, if we don’t change our negative environmental impact, the air we breathe might become too poisonous and noxious to inhale without the assistance of oxygen.
We all have a responsibility to acknowledge that we have an impact, be it positive or negative, and do all that we can to alter the future of an accelerating climate change crisis.
Air Quality Monitoring
Beginning in 1980, the Clean Air Act put into action regulations that controlled industrial air pollution. The monitoring methods and modalities of the time were crude, limited, and expensive. Therefore, the EPA made an allowance to allow businesses to estimate their own emissions impact, or “air toxics,” such as hexavalent chromium and ethylene oxide, which are known carcinogens leading to chronic illness, heart problems, and other negative health impacts.
The EPA also allowed the states to enforce a standard of rules and regulations by providing “air permits” that set a maximum limit of the impact that every business was allowed to have. The major problem was that manufacturers were on their own recognizance to report figures that were often outdated, incomplete, or inaccurate. With no system of checks and balances, big businesses were pretty much on their own to be accountable.
Although the EPA and state agencies had the technology and means to install air monitors that could realistically gauge the amount of toxic pollution reaching the general population, there were no requirements or incentives to do so. ProPublica took it upon themselves to conduct an analysis of EPA emissions data and quickly found that there were over one thousand hot spots of toxic air pollution around the nation. Still, the EPA has a limited spending budget of just $5 million per year to monitor 26 stations across the country.
It will use just $25 million allocated from President Biden’s coronavirus stimulus package to allow communities to monitor their own air pollution. When you stop to consider that chronic illness from air pollution has affected our globe, has been a known assailant for over 50 years, and is way more caustic than coronavirus, those are staggering and absurd figures.
In addition, neighborhoods that have the least likely threats of a hot spot are more likely to get a monitor, and even when there is a problem detected and the residents are showing signs of air pollution effects, there is no law requiring an investigation to pinpoint the offender or to stop the pollution from happening.
So, what is the answer?
Unfortunately, we live in a world where laws and regulations are ruled and guided by money and focus, and although air pollution has been on the radars of public health figures and politicians alike, it is a significant and complex issue to tackle that takes funding that is simply not there and the dedication that is severely lacking in our administrators. Therefore, the responsibility to clean up our collective act has to come from a private level of responsiveness and accountability.
At Air Clear, we believe that our innovation and technological attempts to clean the environment are creating real change, not smoke and mirrors. Our mission is to take the science presented and do all that we can to alter the course of epidemiology related to respiratory illness and chronic disease around the nation and globally. We are achieving our initiatives one business at a time. Please join us to create some real change by helping us support the businesses in your communities that might unwittingly be damaging the air that you and your family are breathing.