June 10, 2022
On June 1, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the annual interactive report tracking America’s progress in controlling air pollution. “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 reported for 2017.
“Our work to ensure clean, breathable air for all is one of the highest priorities at EPA, which is why I’m encouraged to see dramatic long-term reductions in air emissions. The report also shows that environmental protection and a growing economy go hand in hand,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Today’s report demonstrates the Agency’s on-going work, along with state, local, Tribal, and private sector partners, to achieve crucial improvements in air quality across the country.”
EPA examines long-term trends to track the nation’s progress toward clean air. The report released today shows that, between 1970 and 2021, the combined emissions of six key pollutants dropped by 78 percent, while the U.S. economy remained strong – growing 292 percent over the same time.
In addition, national average concentrations of harmful air pollutants decreased considerably across our nation between 1990 and 2021:
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) 8-Hour,79%
- Lead (Pb) 3-Month Average,85% (from 2010)
- Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) Annual,61%
- Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) 1-Hour,54%
- Ozone (O3) 8-Hour,21%
- Particulate Matter 10 microns (PM10) 24-Hour,32%
- Particulate Matter 2.5 microns (PM2.5) Annual,37% (from 2000)
- Particulate Matter 2.5 microns (PM2.5) 24-Hour,33% (from 2000)
- Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) 1-Hour,91%
It is important to note that air quality concentrations can vary year to year, even as human-caused emissions continue to decline. In 2021, national average concentrations of 8-hour ozone averages, annual fine particle levels, and 1-hour sulfur dioxide averages increased slightly over 2020 levels. Variations in weather, and events such as dust storms and wildfires can have an impact on air quality in affected areas. 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.
The 2021 interactive report includes a new tool to explore the latest (2017) air toxics emissions data and risks. This summary tool provides access to community-level information regarding potential cancer risk and noncancer hazards from air toxics emissions. Coupled with EPA’s newly released Air Toxics Screening Assessment AirToxScreen, this tool gives communities — especially those with environmental justice concerns — more complete information about their air quality.
The report includes interactive graphics that enable citizens, policymakers and stakeholders to view and download detailed information by pollutant, geographic location and year. Explore the report and download graphics and data here: (https://gispub.epa.gov/air/trendsreport/2022/)