So what is the status of the environment?
Has the efforts of the past 40 years paid off?
This article is the second in a four part series reviewing the history of the environmental movement from the smokestack to green cleaning products.
Today there are many environmental laws on the books. Although there was some legislation in place before 1970 they were not very effective and nor was there much focus on enforcement. As an illustration of this movement’s evolution I will outline the progress made in the air quality from the smokestack to today’s use of natural green cleaning solutions and products in the home and business. The focus on air quality has been identified as one of the most effective public health campaigns in the history of the United States.
As the founder and President of Green Cleaning Products LLC, it is interesting to note my career, as a professional in the environmental field, began simultaneously with the “new” Clean Air Act of 1970 thus focusing on air quality, although through the years I have worked in all aspects of the environmental field for nearly 35 years.
Congress passed the first federal legislation aimed at reducing pollution from the smokestack, the Air Quality Act of 1967. Although this law did not set standards, did not impose hard deadlines, and did not provide enforcement it was a good first step that provided a framework for more effective legislation.
In 1970 Congress passed the Clean Air Act which created ground-breaking rules to curb pollution by large industrial facilities, nothing about something as small as cleaning products. The most significant is that for the first time the law identified and set standards for pollutants identified as harmful to human health and the environment. The six “criteria” pollutants are: carbon monoxide; nitrogen dioxide; ozone; sulfur dioxide; particulate matter with aerodynamic size less than or equal to 10 micrometers (PM-10); and lead.
The phase down of lead in gasoline has proven to be one of the single most important and successful environmental health initiatives of the last century. In 1923 gasoline spiked with lead was introduced to the market to enhance engine performance. Despite the fact that the known harmful effects of lead to health were increasingly being recognized, automakers continued to fight the mandatory emissions control for cars. None-the-less the law required leaded gas to be phased out. With the phase out of lead underway, blood-lead levels in human beings dropped dramatically further incentivized the phase out. According to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by 1995, the percentage of U.S. children with elevated blood-lead levels dropped from 88.2% in the 1970s to an amazing 4.4%!
Although no longer in the air, there is growing concern about lead and other chemicals in our consumer products, including childrens face paint. This is what brought the introduction of the Safe Chemical Act to congress on April 15, 2010. When passed and implemented this law will greatly affect the quality of our green cleaning products making sure they are safer for all in the use of green chemistry and safe ingredients.