What Is the Clean Air Act?

This is an example of the type of air pollution known as smog. This photo shows Beijing in 2015. The word smog is a combination of smoke and fog.
This is an example of the type of air pollution known as smog. This photo shows Beijing in 2015. The word smog is a combination of smoke and fog. Jaime Permuth / Getty Images

You've probably heard about the Clean Air Acts and can figure out they have something to do with air pollution, but what else do you know about Clean Air Act legislation? Here's a look at the Clean Air Acts and answers to some common questions about them.

What Exactly Is the Clean Air Act?

The Clean Air Act is the name of any of several pieces of legislation aimed at reducing smog and other types of air pollution.

In the United States, the Clean Air Acts include the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955, Clean Air Act of 1963, Air Quality Act of 1967, the Clean Air Act Extension of 1970, and Clean Air Act Amendments in 1977 and 1990. State and local governments have passed supplemental legislation to fill in gaps left by the federal mandates. The Clean Air Acts have addressed acid rain, ozone depletion, and the emission of atmospheric toxins. The laws have included provisions for emissions trading and a national permits program. The amendments established requirements for gasoline reformulation.

In Canada, there have been two acts with the name "Clean Air Act". The Clean Air Act of the 1970s regulated the atmospheric release of asbestos, lead, mercury, and vinyl chloride. This Act was replaced by the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in the year 2000. The second Clean Air Act (2006) was directed against smog and greenhouse gas emissions.

In the United Kingdom, the Clean Air Act of 1956 legislated zones for smokeless fuels and relocated power stations to rural areas. The Clean Air Act of 1968 introduced tall chimneys to disperse air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels.

State Programs

In the United States, several states have added their own programs to prevent or clean up air pollution.

For example, California has the Clean Air Project, aimed to offer smoke-free gaming at tribal casinos. Illinois has the Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water, which is a group dedicated to reducing the environmental impact of large-scale livestock production. Oregon passed the Indoor Clean Air Act, which prohibits smoking in indoor work spaces and within 10 feet of a building entrance. Oklahoma's "Breathe Easy" statutes are similar to the Oregon act, prohibiting smoking in indoor workplaces and public buildings. Several states require vehicle emission testing to limit pollution released by automobiles.

Impact of the Clean Air Acts

The legislation has led to the development of better pollution dispersion models. Critics say the Clean Air Acts have cut into corporate profits and have led companies to relocate, while proponents say the Acts have improved air quality, which has improved human and environmental health, and have created more jobs than they have eliminated.

The Clean Air Acts are considered to be among the most comprehensive environmental laws in the world. In the United States, the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955 was the country's first environmental law. It was the first major environmental law to make a provision for citizen suits.

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "What Is the Clean Air Act?" ThoughtCo, Dec. 8, 2017, thoughtco.com/what-is-the-clean-air-act-p2-606779. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, December 8). What Is the Clean Air Act? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-the-clean-air-act-p2-606779 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "What Is the Clean Air Act?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-the-clean-air-act-p2-606779 (accessed January 18, 2018).