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PR EPA REPORT SHOWS AMERICANS BREATHING CLEANER AIR

Release Date: 12/17/96
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PR EPA REPORT SHOWS AMERICANS BREATHING CLEANER AIR

FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 17, 1996

EPA REPORT SHOWS AMERICANS BREATHING CLEANER AIR WHILE

ECONOMY GROWS


EPA today released its annual report on air quality trends showing that over the past 25 years major air pollutants have decreased nationally by almost 30 percent, while the gross domestic product has increased almost 100 percent.

Among the more dramatic air pollution reductions, sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants, which contribute to acid rain, fell by 5.6 million tons compared to 1980 levels. Overall, sulfur dioxide concentrations in the air dropped 37 percent between 1986 and 1995. The acidity of actual rainfall observed in 1995 was 10to 2512wer in some areas of the U.S. compared to 1983 levels.

Despite the progress, the report also shows that 80 million people -- or three in 10 -- still breathe air that does not meet existing health standards.

The trends analyses also show continued air quality improvement during the past 10 years for all six "criteria" pollutants (carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone (smog), particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide). Nationally, all the years in the 1990s have had better air quality than all the years in the 1980s.

"Clearly, we do not need to choose between our health and our jobs," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. "Economic growth and environmental protection can go hand-in-hand. A healthy economy helps us achieve a healthier environment; a healthy environment helps build a stronger economy.

"The Clinton Administration has placed a high priority on protecting the health of the people of this country by taking aggressive action to protect our air," Browner added. "This Administration's standards for cleaner cars, cleaner gasoline, cleaner power plants, cleaner chemical plants -- all designed to meet the goals set forth by Congress -- have made a significant contribution to cleaning America's air."

"Today's report underscores the effectiveness of strong, protective air pollution standards and the continuing need for such standards to protect public health. As science provides us with new information about the health risks of air pollution, EPA must continually review and update our national standards to ensure that they protect the public," Browner said.

Between 1986 and 1995, the trends analyses show the following improvements in air quality:

Carbon monoxide concentrations decreased 37 percent. Lead concentrations decreased 78 percent.

Nitrogen dioxide concentrations decreased 14 percent. Smog concentrations decreased six percent. Particulate (dirt, dust, soot) concentrations decreased 22 percent between 1988-1995
(because the particulate standard was changed in 1987, 10- year data are not available).
Sulfur dioxide concentrations decreased 37 percent.

Additional highlights from the report:

Due to the hot summer of 1995, ambient ozone levels were higher in 1995 than they were in the past three summers. However, peak concentrations were 16 percent lower than those in 1988, another very hot summer. Preliminary data indicate that ozone levels for the summer of 1996 are likely to be low.

Data reported in 1994 and 1995 show significant reductions in concentrations of a number of toxic air pollutants, particularly benzene. The median reduction for benzene was approximately 38 percent. EPA analyses indicate these reductions may be a result of reduced volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from vehicles due to the use of reformulated gasoline.

(Limited copies of the 169-page National Air Quality and Emissions Trends Report, 1995 are available to reporters from EPA's press office. Others can obtain copies from and direct questions to the Emissions, Monitoring, and Analysis Division (MD-14), Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, N.C. 27711; phone 919-541-5558. Electronic copies of the report as well as a summary brochure are computer-accessible immediately through EPA's Home Page on the Internet at (http://www.epa.gov/airlinks) and on the electronic bulletin board system, the Technology Transfer Network (TTN), at 919-541-5742 (backup number for access problems is 919-541-5384) under the "Trends and Nonattainment" section of the Ambient Monitoring Technical Information Center (AMTIC).)

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