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EPA Estimates Clean Air Act Will Gain $2 Trillion in Health Benefits by 2020

Includes 230,000 lives saved
March 1, 2011
Washington, D.C. —

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released “The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020” report estimating the health benefits from the Clean Air Act at $2 trillion by the year 2020, which includes 230,000 saved lives in that year alone. These health benefits are the result of reducing risks of early death associated with breathing in fine particle pollution and ozone as well as reducing breathing illnesses such as chronic bronchitis. The health benefits also extend to protecting the environment, including improved agricultural yields and better visibility conditions.

“The health benefits from the Clean Air Act paint a staggering picture of lives saved and suffering prevented,” said David Baron, DC managing attorney at Earthjustice. “In light of these numbers, it’s truly outlandish for polluters and their allies to seek weakening of the Clean Air Act, as they did in Congress just ten days ago.”

In further detail the EPA analysis estimates that in 2010 the Clean Air Act:

  • Saved 160,000 adult lives from exposure to fine particle pollution
  • Saved 230 infant lives from exposure to fine particle pollution
  • Saved 4,300 lives from exposure to ozone
  • Prevented 86,000 emergency room visits
  • Prevented 3.2 million missed days of school
  • Prevented 13 million missed days of work

In 2020 the Clean Air Act will:

  • Save 230,000 adult lives from exposure to fine particle pollution
  • Save 280 infant lives from exposure to fine particle pollution
  • Save 7,100 lives from exposure to ozone
  • Prevent 120,000 emergency room visits
  • Prevent 5.4 million missed days of school
  • Prevent 17 million missed days of work

The Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 built on the Clean Air Act of 1970 and 1977. From this recent analysis the EPA has concluded that the direct benefits of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments significantly exceed the cost of industry compliance. These health benefits exceed the cost of compliance by 30 to one. Moreover, the economy is stronger with the Clean Air Act amendments as cleaner air leads to better health and productivity for Americans and less money is spent on health care to treat air pollution-related health problems.

This health benefit report comes on the heels of several attacks from Congressional leaders targeting air rules. Some of the most important EPA rules that members of Congress have sought to eliminate or stall include:

  • EPA’s rule to reduce toxic air emissions at cement plants. This important health protection will reduce mercury emissions from cement plants by 92 percent, will prevent up to 2,500 premature deaths every year, and yield up to $18 billion in annual health benefits.
  • EPA’s rule to reduce toxic air emissions from “industrial boilers,” the on-site power plants at refineries, chemical plants, paper mills and other major sources of pollution. The EPA estimates that the rule will prevent up to 6,500 premature deaths every year once the rule takes effect in 2014. The monetary value of projected annual health benefits ranges between $22 and $54 billion dollars a year, savings which outweigh the rule’s annual cost of $1.4 billion by at least 15-to-1 and as much as 38-to-1.

Contacts

Jim Pew, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 214

David Baron, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 203

Stephanie Maddin, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 210

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.