What If We Never Passed the Clean Air Act?

Forty years ago, the United States government passed the Clean Air Act—a federal law that regulates atmospheric emissions in order to protect the air we breathe from pollution. Without it, our world would look a whole lot different.

But what exactly does that mean?

Let me take you into an alternate reality, with the help of a report from our friends at Save on Energy: a reality in which air pollution levels have reached a new height, where impurities rule and air visibility is just about non-existent. You can find that full report here!

What would our cities look like? How would our lives be different?

The following graphics demonstrate how American cities would look in a world without the Clean Air Act. The pollution levels were determined by calculating concentration of particles in the air (similar to China’s post polluted city, Xingtai), to visibility in miles.

Here’s the actual formula, for all your science aficionados out there: 

Adj. Max. Daily PM2.5 for Population = (US Pop. / Xingtai Pop.) * Max Daily PM2.5 for Xingtai

VL = (A * 10^3)/G’

VL = Equivalent visual range.

A = 0.75 Adjusted for miles

G = Micrograms per cubic meter.

Here’s how Chicago would look without the Clean Air Act: 

What about Dallas? Houston? San Jose? Take a look! 

What is Air Pollution?

According to the Save on Energy report, which gives a great definition, “Air pollution occurs when particulate matter, biological agents, or other harmful pollutants are introduced into the atmosphere, posing both an environmental and human health risk.” The World Health Organization (WHO) considers this to be just about any contaminant that “modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere.”

Pollutants like this can come through anything like industrial facilities, the burning of fossil fuels, vehicle exhaust, household fires and more. These pollutants can cause allergies and seriously detrimental diseases like lung cancer, chronic and acute respiratory disease, asthma, reduced fertility, neurological disorders and stroke. They also make their way into our foods, contaminating the fish and plants we eat through bioaccumulation, and cause acid rain. The Guardian suggests that air pollution kills approximately 3.3 million people every single year—a number that will double by 2050 if we don’t make some more serious changes to our pollution policies. That’s more than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.

Did the Clean Air Act really make a difference?

Absolutely! Since 1973, when the Act was passed, the Clean Air Act has helped decrease surface ozone levels by 25 percent since 1980, reduced mercury emissions by 45 percent since 1990 and taken out more than half of the nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide responsible for acid rain since 1980. We can also thank the Clean Air Act for preventing the premature deaths of some 40,000 people, and millions more from contracting diseases like those listed above.

Thank goodness for proactivity!

100 comments

Jerome S
Jerome S9 months ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven9 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Simon L
Simon L10 months ago

noted.thanks

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Tin Ling L
Tin Ling L10 months ago

ty

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven11 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

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Janis K.
Janis Kabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Kirsty Mayfield
Kirsty Mayfieldabout a year ago

thankyou for sharing :) :) xx

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Kirsty Mayfield
Kirsty Mayfieldabout a year ago

thankyou for sharing :) :) xx

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Past Member
Past Member about a year ago

nice

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