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Report: Environmental Policies Improved Air and Water Quality Over Time

A new report found air pollution decreased in response to policy informed by monitoring and research. (Pixabay)
A new report found air pollution decreased in response to policy informed by monitoring and research. (Pixabay)
April 3, 2018

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – A new report shows the environmental pollution problems caused by humans can actually be reversed by humans. The report by 11 senior researchers found that across the U.S., the quality of air and freshwater improved significantly in recent decades, mainly because of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts put in place nearly 50 years ago.

University of Virginia environmental sciences professor James Galloway is a co-author of the report and says since the 1970s, they've been monitoring sites showing a decline in concentrations of airborne pollutants such as sulfur, mercury and lead.

"The data shows that over this course of time, these environmental slights if you will, have decreased," he notes. "They are not back to natural levels, mind you, but they are certainly less dangerous than they were a couple decades ago."

The report also showed the economic benefits of environmental policies far outweighed the costs. For instance, it claims the Clean Air Act provided an estimated $22-trillion benefit to the U.S. economy.

Galloway says back in the eighties, there was a serious issue with acid rain, and while it was not eliminated, he says it was greatly diminished thanks to the Clean Air Act. Galloway says his big takeaway is that there are plenty of opportunities to undo damages caused by human pollution.

"We have caused environmental problems and, through concerted coordinated action, we can solve some environmental problems, and we have the data to show the extent which we've been solving these problems or at least decreasing them," he explains.

The report, called "Air Pollution Success Stories in the United States: The Value of Long-Term Observations," was funded in part by the National Science Foundation, the A.W. Mellon Foundation and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - VA