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The Green Life: Midlife Crisis? The Clean Air Act Turns 40

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September 14, 2010

Midlife Crisis? The Clean Air Act Turns 40

IStock_000005728191XSmall Like a misbehaving child, the Clean Air Act has been scorned since its birth on September 14, 1970. Those against the legislation despise the extra expenses it creates. They blame its parental unit, the EPA, for not fully understanding what they were getting into when it was conceived. However, unlike a child, the Clean Air Act is turning 40, and once again, people are trying to kill it.

EPA head Lisa Jackson has defended the act, explaining to its opposition that one day, we will all look back on the little law that could and realize that we are better for it.

When Sen. Gaylord Wilson, father of Earth Day, came up with the Clean Air Act in 1970, he meant for it to remove the more horrifying pollutants from Americans' breath and blood. Carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and lead were all assigned emission limits; standards regarding pollutants were put in place; and lead was to be slowly pushed out of gasoline by the mid-'80s.

As the next decade rolled around, the lead levels in people’s blood did in fact decrease by half. By 2002, the Clean Air Act fought off enough car-emitted carbon monoxide to save 11,700 lives. Over the next four decades, the Clean Air Act was forced to evolve. Amendments have been added through the years to combat the new generations of chemicals, pollution sources, and corporate loopholes. 

Before legislators try to turn the tables on the Clean Air Act this week by limiting its authority to cap carbon, don’t wish it a happy birthday. Just take a deep breath and know that if it wasn’t for some middle-aged legislation, you may have just inhaled so many more things that can kill you.

--Justin Klugh

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