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NRC Recommends Air Pollution Policy Revamp

by Cheryl Hogue
February 9, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 6

EPA should regulate air pollutants by groups instead of controlling them one at a time, the National Research Council says.

Multipollutant strategies could be more protective and cost-effective, NRC concludes in a report recommending changes to the current Clean Air Act system. NRC suggests regulating clusters of pollutants emitted by similar sources that can be controlled with related technologies. For example, a single rule might target ozone, particulate matter, and several hazardous air pollutants from industrial smokestacks and diesel engines. Another grouping might include contaminants that have a similar impact on health, ecosystems, visibility, or climate change.

NRC also says Congress should give EPA more authority to address pollution that blows from states where it is emitted into other states struggling to improve air quality. EPA needs to improve the tracking of transported pollution and to develop multistate strategies for addressing it. And, to minimize the amount of air pollution that drifts to and from the U.S., the nation needs to forge international collaborations.

The study also says air regulators will need to address health risks from airborne toxic chemicals as well as pollution that disproportionately affects minority and low-income communities in urban areas. Plus, EPA needs to protect ecosystems from the effects of air pollution. The agency will have to adapt its efforts to a global climate that will most likely be warmer, NRC adds.


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