EPA Releases Second Urban Air Toxics Report

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the final of two reports required by the Clean Air Act to inform Congress of its actions in reducing public health risks from urban air toxics.  The report, Second Integrated Urban Air Toxics Report to Congress, was released on August 21, 2014 and details the progress the EPA has made with urban air toxics.

The report uses national emissions and air quality data to determine the results, which show that substantial progress has been made since the passage of the Integrated Urban Air Toxics Strategy in 1999. The report provides results achieved through EPA’s air toxics regulations, including:

  • A 66 percent reduction in benzene;
  • A nearly 60 percent reduction in mercury from man-made sources like coal-fired power plants;
  • An 84 percent decrease of lead in outdoor air;
  • The removal of an estimated 1.5 million tons per year of air toxics from stationary sources, and approximately 3 million tons per year of criteria pollutants as a co-benefit of air toxics reductions;
  • The removal of an estimated 1.5 million tons per year of air toxics from mobile sources, which represents a 50 percent reduction in mobile source air toxics emissions.

The report also shows that some areas of the U.S. are experiencing elevated levels of risk, based on the 2005 National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA).  This assessment has been available since 2011 and is the most recent complete analysis of air toxics.  While there has been considerable progress, the EPA recognizes the following areas where continued effort is necessary:

  • Improved emissions data
  • Ambient data in more areas for more pollutants
  • New monitoring technologies that are accessible, transparent and cost effective
  • More research into the cumulative impacts of exposure to air toxics on human health
  • Better integration of air toxics, pollution prevention and voluntary programs in regulatory and non-regulatory efforts
  • Regulatory tools to direct national regulatory efforts at source categories where emissions pose significant risks.

“This report gives everyone fighting for clean air a lot to be proud of because for more than 40 years we have been protecting Americans – preventing illness and improving our quality of life by cutting air pollution – all while the economy has more than tripled,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “But we know our work is not done yet. At the core of EPA’s mission is the pursuit of environmental justice – striving for clean air, water and healthy land for every American; and we are committed to reducing remaining pollution, especially in low-income neighborhoods.”

To view the full report, click here.

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