Clean Air Act Anniversary Highlights History of Progress, Need for Better Safeguards to Ensure a Healthy Future for All Americans

50 Years After Enacting One of the Nation’s Bedrock Environmental Laws, More Work Still to be Done

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 50th anniversary of the Clean Air Act amid the COVID-19 public health crisis highlights the vital need to safeguard the clean air that people and wildlife alike need.

“For 50 years, the Clean Air Act has been one of our nation's most effective and beneficial public health and environmental laws. But there is still much to do to ensure vulnerable communities don’t continue to bear the brunt of pollution for another 50 years,” said Mustafa Santiago Ali, vice president of environmental justice, climate, and community revitalization at the National Wildlife Federation. “Uncontrolled carbon pollution, toxic mercury emissions, and numerous other air toxins still pose a serious threat to people and wildlife. Unfortunately, we have too many sacrifice zones across our country, where Black, Brown and Indigenous communities ‘Still Can’t Breathe’ — and are dying at disproportionately high rates due to chronic medical conditions and COVID-19.

“We must continue to push the EPA to limit emissions from the biggest polluters, such as coal-fired power plants, and to create strong standards to safeguard our resources for future generations.”

The law was passed by Congress in 1970 with overwhelming bipartisan support, and has allowed Americans to hold polluters accountable and successfully protect the health of millions — including children, seniors, and the most vulnerable communities — from dozens of air pollutants.

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