The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will provide at least $50 million in American Rescue Plan funding to improve air quality monitoring throughout the country. Announced in July, the funding is in addition to the $50 million already pledged to the ARP by the agency for environmental justice projects.
The plan to enhance air community monitoring includes four major components:
- Grant competition for community monitoring
- Direct awards to air agencies for continuous monitoring of PM2.5 and other common air pollutants
- Enhanced regional capacity for short-term community monitoring needs
- Administrative support
The Challenge of Combating Air Pollution
Much progress has been made to clean the air since 1970, but air pollution continues to be a threat to both Americans’ health and the environment. As part of the Clean Air Act, the EPA works with state, local and tribal governments, other federal agencies, and stakeholders to lower levels of air pollution.
According to the EPA, some of the main outdoor air pollution challenges currently facing the U.S. includes meeting health-based standards for common air pollutants, limiting climate change, reducing risks from toxic air pollutants, and protecting the stratospheric ozone layer against degradation.
Emissions of air pollutants are an important factor in many air quality issues. In 2020, 68 million tons of pollution were emitted into the atmosphere in the U.S., according to the EPA. These emissions largely contribute to the formation of ozone and particles, the deposition of acids, and visibility impairment.
From 1980 to 2020, total emissions of the six main air pollutants dropped by 73% — CO2 emissions climbed 11%, according to the EPA. While major progress has been made to improve air quality, much work still needs to be done.
The ‘State of Air’ 2021
More than 40% of Americans — over 135 million people — live in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution, according to the “State of the Air” 2021 report, published by the American Lung Association.
Los Angeles is the city with the worst ozone pollution in the U.S., a designation held for all but one of the 22 years tracked by the report. For the first time, Fairbanks, Alaska was named the metropolitan area with the worst short-term particle pollution. Bakersfield, California was deemed the most polluted for year-round particle pollution for the second consecutive year.
Findings also revealed exposure to unhealthy levels of ozone air pollution is continuing to make breathing problematic for millions of Americans. Additionally, the report revealed more than 20.9 million people live in areas where year-found particle pollution levels are worse than the national air quality limit.
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