Posted: February 1st, 2023
Because they can cause cancer or other significant health impacts, including reproductive and congenital disability issues, these pollutants, also called hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), are classed as hazardous air pollutants. Governments at all levels are working together to reduce the environmental impact of 187 air pollutants that are hazardous to public health.
Toxic air pollutants include the following:
benzene, a component in gasoline;
perchloroethylene, a substance released by some dry-cleaning establishments; and
Many industries use the solvent and paint remover methylene chloride.
Environmental and Human Health Risks of Air Pollution
Individuals exposed to harmful air pollutants at high concentrations and for long enough periods may have an elevated risk of developing cancer or experiencing other significant health consequences. These adverse health impacts can include immune system dysfunction and neurological, reproductive (e.g., decreased fertility), developmental, and respiratory disorders. Also, there are many ways that dangerous air pollutants like mercury can be absorbed by plants and animals, increasing their concentration in the food chain. As with people, animals may suffer health issues if exposed to high levels of air toxics for an extended period.
Sources Of Exposure: Human activity is the primary source of most air toxics, including vehicles, stationary sources, and even internal sources. However, some air toxins are also emitted, for example, during volcanic eruptions and forest fires. People are exposed to dangerous air pollutants in a variety of ways.
Individuals are exposed to harmful air pollutants in a variety of ways that can pose health hazards, including the following:
Inhalation of polluted air.
Contaminated foods include fish from contaminated waters; meat, milk, or eggs from animals that ate contaminated plants; and fruits and vegetables grown in soil contaminated with air pollutants.
Consumption of contaminated food products
Air pollution has contaminated drinking water, posing a health risk.
Once hazardous air pollutants reach the body, some stay in tissues. Predators often absorb higher levels of pollutants than their polluted prey. It means that people and other species at the top of the food chain, such as birds and mammals, are exposed to far higher concentrations of toxins than those present in the environment.
Reducing Hazardous Air Pollutant Emissions
The EPA and our state and local regulatory partners have taken significant measures to reduce hazardous air pollutants and provide critical health safeguards to Americans everywhere. These measures reduce harmful emissions from industrial sources, put stronger emission laws and cleaner-burning gasoline, and tackle indoor air pollution through volunteer programs. More information about reductions from:
Significant Sources: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on hazardous air pollutants (HAP) from important sources are mandated by the Clean Air Act to be implemented in two stages.
The first step is “technology-based,” in which the EPA creates guidelines for regulating air toxics emissions from sources within a particular industry sector (or “source category”). Then, based on the emissions levels before achieved by regulated and low-emission sources in the industry, these greatest attainable control technology (MACT) criteria were developed.
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to analyze the residual health hazards associated with each source category within eight years of establishing MACT requirements to ensure public health and environmental protection. Thus, residual risk is a “risk-based” strategy employed in this second phase. In this case, the EPA must determine if more health-protective rules are warranted. Clean Air Act mandates an evaluation and revision of MACT standards every eight years after their first implementation to reflect advancements in air pollution management and preventive methods. Since 1990, the EPA has established restrictions regulating air toxics emissions from over 174 different types of significant industrial sources, including chemical facilities, oil refineries, aerospace manufacturers, and steel mills. However, it was between 1999 and 2011 that the majority of these regulations’ requirements were implemented. When wholly implemented, these rules are expected to reduce approximately 1.7 million tonnes of air toxins
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