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EPA reports air quality is improving.

EPA reports air quality is improving

The healthiness of U.S. air -- as measured by levels of respirable particulates, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and lead -- generally improved between 1978 and 1987, according to an EPA analysis of air quality trends, issued last week. Despite these improvements, the study finds almost 41 percent of U.S. residents still live in areas exceeding acceptable levels of at least one of these six pollutants -- the only ones for which EPA has set health-based ambient-air standards.

Lead levels dropped 88 percent over the 10 years, 19 percent in the last year alone. EPA attributes these dramatic decreases to the phasing out of lead in gasoline. Carbon monoxide fell 32 percent over the decade, 6 percent in the last year. Tom Curran in EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards credits much of the improvement to the federal motor-vehicle control program -- which required carbon-monoxide-emissions-control devices on new cars--and improved traffic flow patterns in large cities. By the end of the 10-year period, he notes, cars--which produce about two-thirds of the nation's carbon monoxide--emitted 38 percent less carbon monoxide while driving 24 percent more miles. Smog ozone remains the most intractable problem. While ambient levels fell 16 percent over the decade, more than one-third of all people in the United States live in areas where ozone regularly exceeds acceptable levels.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 1, 1989
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