Despite the steady increase in regulation from the Air Quality Act of 1967 to the “new” Clean Air Act of 1970, it was not enough. This article is the third of a four part series reviewing the history of the enviornmental movement from the smokestack to eco friendly green cleaning products for the home and business.
Because many states failed to meet mandated targets, in 1977 the Clean Air Act Amendments were adopted. One of the most effective of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977 was the New Source Review, which addressed older facilities that had been “grandfathered” by the original law. In 1970 Congress had assumed that older industrial facilities, such as power plants and refineries, would be phased out of production, so in 1970 they were exempted from the legislation. These big polluters continued to operate and emit pollution from the smokestacks at much higher levels than new facilities that were built with modern pollution-control equipment of the time. The resulting New Source Review required older industrial facilities that wanted to expand to undergo an assessment by the United States Enviornmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and install pollution control technologies whenever their planned expansion produced significantly more emissions. As a young engineer for Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), a petrochemical company that has since been acquired by BP Amoco, I was focused on the smokestacks and a long way from considering if I was using green cleaning products! At that time I was focused on spearheading the effort to secure ARCO’s FIRST Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit for the Lower 48!
In 1990 additional amendments to the Clean Air Act were passed. These focused on acid rain control where sulfur dioxides (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions were to be curbed not greening of cleaning products.
Despite protestations at the time by some industry interests that the Clean Air Act regulations were prohibitively costly, in 1995 the Department of Energy estimated the costs to power plants to reduce their pollution levels under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments accounted for merely 0.6 percent of the utilities overall $151 billion operating expenses!
Almost all the pollutants in our ambient air quality that have been regulated have significantly decreased since 1970. Specifically:
- Carbon monoxide decreased 31%;
- Reduction of 27% has been documented for sulfur dioxide;
- Particulate matter (PM-10 which includes soot, smoke, dirt, and liquid droplets) has seen a 71% decline; and
- Lead has experienced a 98% drop.
- Though not one of the six criteria pollutants, volatile organic compounds, such as dry cleaning fluids and paint thinners, which contribute significantly to photochemical smog production and certain health problems, have also declined some 42% from their 1970 levels.
Despite the huge strides we have made, our awareness and sensitivity increases. The other side to this issue is not only the pollution of our environment, but also our health and the safety of our babies, children, and pets. Today indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air!
While much attention is paid to outdoor air pollution EPA has found that levels of air pollution inside the home can be two to five times higher (and sometimes even 100 times higher than outside levels). This is noteworthy since we spend the vast majority of our time (87%) indoors. Which is why the use of green cleaning products in your home and green janitorial chemicals and supplies in your business should be considered. Check out the fourth and last article in this series to learn more.