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Clean Air Act – Taking Toxics Out of the Air

John Huang, Ph.D., PE and John Poullain, PE

This four-hour online course reviews the measures taken by the US Environmental Protection Agency to reduce emissions of toxic air pollutants from industrial sources such as chemical plants, wood mills, steel mills and oil refineries. The course presents the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standards used by the EPA. Topics covered include the types of toxic air pollutants, their causes and sources and how the health of people and the environment are affected by exposure. Specific sources of air toxics include over 30 types of industries, such as dry cleaners, organic chemical producers, gasoline distribution facilities, lead smelters, paper mills, and mineral wool producers. Specific air pollutants related health effects and how the EPA reduces the amount of emissions via the CAA is discussed. The course presents many links and references to informative sources covered in the text topics. Other contributors of emissions include mobile, accidental releases and forest fires and are not discussed here.

The 1990 Clean Air Act was enacted by the US Government to reduce smog and air pollution. It was preceded by the 1963 CAA and amended in 1966, 1970 and 1977. The CAA covers the total US but states actually carry out the provisions by holding permit hearings, fining companies for violations, developing state implementation plans and holding cleanup hearings for polluted areas. The US Government provides the research, studies, engineering design and financial assistance for CAA programs. The EPA publication for this course was designed to be used by air quality professionals and others interested in air toxics standards and regulations. Air pollution has become a serious health problem since air toxics will affect the health of people and especially the young, elderly and those afflicted with respiratory diseases who are especially susceptible to air quality problems. Dust and particulate matter often trigger asthma attacks. The statistics for people affected by allergies, asthma and other respiratory diseases have been increasing for all age groups. Sources of air toxics include:

1. Industrial operations that release contaminants.
2. Mobile, accidental releases (spills), and forest fires.
3. Under performing emission control equipment.
4. Construction materials releasing solvents and volatile organic compounds (VOC) or chemicals.
5. Particulate matter and dust.

Air quality and pollution are complex problems, which is hard to target because of ever changing types or levels of pollution and a person’s susceptibility to environmental conditions.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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NY PE & PLS: You must choose courses that are technical in nature or related to matters of laws and ethics contributing to the health and welfare of the public. NY Board does not accept courses related to office management, risk management, leadership, marketing, accounting, financial planning, real estate, and basic CAD. Specific course topics that are on the borderline and are not acceptable by the NY Board have been noted under the course description on our website.