The EPA has released the annual interactive report tracking America’s progress in controlling air pollution. The report, titled “Our Nation’s Air: Trends Through 2021,” offers readers an opportunity to learn about the health and environmental impacts of air pollution; track trends in air quality and emissions data, explore efforts to improve visibility in treasured national parks; and explore community-level health impacts of air toxics emissions.

The report, which the EPA uses to examine long-term trends to track the nation’s progress toward clean air, shows that the combined emissions of six key pollutants dropped by 78 percent. At the same time, the U.S. economy remained strong – growing 292 percent over the same time.

In addition, the national average concentrations of harmful air pollutants decreased considerably across our nation between 1990 and 2021:

  • Carbon Monoxide dropped 79 percent
  • Lead’s 3-Month Average declined 85 percent from 2010
  • Annual Nitrogen Dioxide decreased by 61 percent
  • Ozone was reduced by 21 percent
  • Particulate Matter, both PM10 and PM2.5, decreased over 30 percent since 2000, and
  • Sulfur Dioxide dropped by 91 percent.

It is important to note that air quality concentrations can vary year to year, even as human-caused emissions continue to decline. Many environmental impacts associated with climate change can impact air quality, particularly affecting the severity and timing of the wildfire season, including changes in temperature, precipitation, and drought. Despite increases in air concentrations of pollutants associated with fires, carbon monoxide, and particle pollution, national average air quality concentrations remain below the current national standards.

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About the Author

Jon Knight

Jon Knight leads the NASP Team’s media creation department. He has been involved with workplace safety training since 2017 with a focus on course creation. He also provides video production and voiceovers for NASP content.
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