Expert Report

Air Quality Management in the United States (2004)


Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

The implementation of air quality regulations should be less bureaucratic -- with more emphasis on results than process -- and should be designed to protect ecosystems as well as people. The report recommends that The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) use an approach to target groups of pollutants instead of individual ones and that revised or new regulations also should consider how air pollution travels from state to state and across international borders. In addition, improved tracking of emissions is needed to accurately assess what populations are at the highest risk of health problems from pollution and to better measure the progress of pollution-control strategies.

Key Messages

  • AQM should strive to emphasize results over process, create accountability for the results, and dynamically adjust and correct the system as data on progress are assessed.
  • AQM should strive to identify and assess more clearly the most significant exposures, risks, and uncertainties.
  • AQM should strive to take an airshed3-based approach by assessing and controlling emissions of important pollutants arising from local, multistate, national, and international sources.
  • AQM should strive to take an integrated multipollutant approach to controlling emissions of pollutants posing the most significant risks.
  • Implementation of the CAA has contributed to substantial decreases in emissions of several pollutants. Regulations for light-duty vehicles, light-duty trucks, and fuel properties have greatly reduced emissions per mile traveled. Programs for stationary sources, such as power plants and large factories, have also achieved substantial reductions of pollutant emissions.
  • Most of the reductions have been accomplished through regulations on new facilities, while many older, often higher-emitting facilities can be a substantial source of emissions.