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The Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act

How the Clean Air Act is Working

There are several ways you can tell how well the Clean Air Act is working. Over time, the Clean Air Act will continue to reduce air pollution, but it will take time for some of the Act's provisions to have their full impact.

In general, when EPA or state, local, and tribal governments require sources of pollution to adopt control measures, you will see results right away. For instance, when large industrial facilities are required to install pollution control equipment, releases of pollutants should drop when the equipment is installed. On the other hand, in the case of cars and trucks, it may take several years for old vehicles to be retired from the road before the full effects of cleaning up cars and trucks will be seen.

You can also check on how individual facilities are meeting their clean-up requirements. Air pollutant releases at individual facilities such as power plants are set out in the facility's permit, which you can review. This document provides information on state, local, or tribal air pollution control agencies that can give you more information on how to get access to permits. (See Contact Information)

Monitoring air quality is the best way to tell if the air is getting cleaner, because the monitors accurately report how much of a pollutant is in the air. You can request EPA, state, local, or tribal monitoring reports that show changes over time. It is updated frequently, so you can get recent information on what's happening to the air in your community. Visit www.epa.gov/airtrends for more information.

The "Air Quality Index" (AQI) is a "public-friendly" way of using actual monitoring data to help us assess how clean our air is. Americans are familiar with many radio, TV, and newspaper weather forecasters talking about the AQI- telling you that the air is so polluted that a "Code Orange" or "Code Red" air quality condition is in effect. The AQI tracks pollution for your local area. The color codes, which range from green to purple, correspond to specific pollution levels. As clean-up programs are implemented for the air pollutants tracked by the AQI, we hope to see a reduction in the number of Code Orange and Code Red air quality days. Information on the AQI can be found at: www.airnow.gov.

The National Air Toxics Assessment is an on-going, comprehensive evaluation of air toxics in the United States. Visit www.epa.gov/ttn/atw for air toxics information on emissions, risk, and exposure in your area.

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