Study Reports Good News on U.S. Air Quality

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Washington, D.C., October 2, 2003—Air quality in the United States is good and will continue to improve in coming years, according to a newly published report by Competitive Enterprise Institute adjunct scholar Joel Schwartz.  The findings of the report, Particulate Air Pollution: Weighing the Risks, challenge the assumption of many activists and politicians that current low levels of particulate matter pose a significant health risk and require increased federal regulation.   <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />


The levels of pollutants such as particulate matter have declined dramatically in recent decades and will sink even lower as manufacturers produce new, even more fuel-efficient vehicles and planned reductions in emissions from power plants and industrial facilities go into effect.  Despite these improvements, both the Bush administration (the Clear Skies Initiative) and Democrats in Congress have proposed stringent new limits that would be expensive to attain but are unlikely to have any positive public health effects.


“Evidence from multiple medical studies suggests that exposure to particulate matter at current levels has little or no effect on mortality in the United States. Regardless, processes already set in motion guarantee substantial reductions in coming years,” said study author Schwartz.  “Additional near-term reductions are probably best achieved by dealing with the stock of high-polluting older vehicles that account for a substantial portion of ambient PM levels in metropolitan areas. This flexible, more cost-effective approach is far more likely to result in net public health benefits than other proposals that are the focus of current legislative and regulatory activity and debate.”


The study is available online at or by request from CEI’s Director of Publications at [email protected].