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U.S. EPA REGIONAL AIR QUALITY REPORT: "WE'RE BREATHING EASIER"

Release Date: 6/20/1995
Contact Information: Dave Schmidt, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1578

 (San Francisco) --  U.S. EPA today issued a report entitled,
Breathing Easier:  Air Quality in California, Arizona, Nevada,
and Hawaii, showing remarkable progress toward cleaner air in
these four states over the last ten years.  Despite major
increases in population and auto travel over the past decade, air
pollution levels have decreased by about one-third, overall.
Most dramatically, lead levels are down by 93%.  


     "This report shows conclusively that the 37 million people
of California, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii are breathing easier
because the air is substantially healthier than it was ten years
ago," said David Howekamp, director of U.S. EPA's regional Air
and Toxics Division.  "Thanks to the Clean Air Act and the
cooperation of state and local air agencies, we have made
dramatic progress toward cleaner air."  


     Both the number of days in which air pollution has exceeded
national air quality standards, and the air pollutant levels have
decreased for the six major air pollutants targeted for reduction
under the federal Clean Air Act.  


     Of the six pollutants, the greatest reductions have been
recorded for lead (93%), followed by sulfur dioxide (34%), and
carbon monoxide (29%).  The tremendous reduction in lead levels
has resulted mostly from the phase-out of lead in gasoline.
Particulate matter (down by 25%), smog-forming ground-level ozone
(down by 18%) and nitrogen dioxide (down by 13%) present the most
serious remaining challenges.  However, all six pollutants are
being steadily reduced.


     Since 1990, according to the report, the following
geographic areas have reduced their levels of one or more of
these pollutants sufficiently to meet the federal health
standards for:


         Ground-level Ozone:  San Francisco Bay Area, and
         Monterey Bay, California; and Reno, Nevada.  


                               
                            (more)


                               -2-

         Particulate Matter:  Ajo, Rillito, Hayden, and Miami,
         Arizona.


         Carbon Monoxide:  San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego,
         Sacramento, Fresno, Stockton, Modesto, Chico, and Lake
         Tahoe, California; Reno, Nevada.


         Sulfur Dioxide:  In earlier years, violations of
         federal health standards have occurred near nonferrous
         metal (copper) smelters in Arizona, but none have been
         recorded recently.  The only recent violations were
         from naturally-occurring volcanic emissions at Hawaii
         Volcanoes National Park.


         Nitrogen Dioxide:  The only violation of the federal
         health standard was in the South Coast Air Basin (Los
         Angeles Area) in 1991.  That area met the standard in
         1992 and 1993, the most recent years for which data are
         available.


         Lead:  All areas met the federal standard.


     Despite progress toward cleaner air in all geographic areas,
however, some still failed to meet federal health standards with
regard to certain pollutants during the past few years.  These
areas include:  


         Southern California, the San Joaquin Valley,          
         the Sacramento Area, and Phoenix, where ground-level
         ozone levels exceeded the federal health standard.


         The South Coast Air Basin (Los Angeles area),
         Southeast Desert, San Joaquin Valley, and Great Basin
         Valley, California; Reno, and Las Vegas, Nevada; and
         Phoenix and some rural areas in Arizona, where
         particulate levels exceeded the federal health
         standard.


         The South Coast Air Basin (Los Angeles area), Phoenix,
         and Las Vegas, where carbon monoxide levels exceeded
         the federal health standard.


     Copies of the 25-page report are available upon request.  To
request a copy, please call U.S. EPA at (415) 744-1208.
   
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