Clean air logo environmental events

other important events occurring around the time of clean air legislation

 

Many incidents of environmental importance occurred in the middle and late twentieth century which caught the public's attention. The impact of these events sparked interest and awareness in this serious issue, and, in many cases, one of these happenings was a direct cause or effect of the clean air act and its amendments.

 

1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s 

1940s

1948 JUNE 30

FIRST WATER POLLUTION CONTROL ACT IN THE UNITED STATES

This act was the first formal regulatory action taken to protect natural water sources in the United States. It called for cooperation between federal and state governments in the pollution prevention issues discussed over the past few decades including grants to state and local governments and agencies for research and water treatment. More federal involvement was mandated in the amendments to this act in 1956, 1961, 1965, and 1966.

 

1948 OCTOBER 26-31

DEADLY SMOG IN DONORA, PENNSYLVANIA

Due to a number of factors, including the large amount of industrial mills in the area and a temperature inversion, a heavy smog, or a fog mixed with smoke and other particulates, was trapped in the valley community of Donora, PA. The temperature inversion, which is characterized as a stagnant atmospheric condition, remained for five days causing twenty deaths and hundreds of illnesses until the wind finally carried it away. This and similar incidents prompted the creation of the Air Pollution Control Act in 1955.

 

1949

USSR ENACTS AIR POLLUTION CONTROL LAW

This legislation was discussed and enacted due to rapidly growing industrialization as well as widely circulating conservation propaganda. It called for various stations to measure air pollution; however, it was not very effective.

 

 

1950s

1952 DECEMBER 4-8

DEADLY SMOG IN LONDON, ENGLAND

Due to rapid urbanization and industrialization and on account of the high pressure weather system which created an inversion, a heavy smog settled on the city of London. This smog, or fog mixed with smoke and other particulates, lasted for four days causing thousands of deaths and even more illnesses. This prompted the passing of Great Britain's first Clean Air Act in 1956.

 

1953

KEEP AMERICA BEAUTIFUL (KAB) IS FOUNDED

Businessmen created KAB in an attempt to halt or at least decrease the immense flow of garbage. The program did this in many ways including television and radio public service announcements, and it proved to be very effective in making the public aware of the issue.

 

1956

WATER POLLUTION CONTROL ACT IS AMENDED

(see First Water Pollution Control Act, 1952)

 

 

1960s

1961

WATER POLLUTION CONTROL ACT IS AMENDED

(see First Water Pollution Control Act, 1952)

 

early 1960's

INCREASED ACIDITY OF LAKES IN SOUTHERN SCANDINAVIA

Measuring stations began reporting increasing amounts of sulfur and acid in rain and snow, and it was linked to the disappearance of many fish in lakes and streams. These measurements illustrated the growing problem of acid rain.

 

1962

RACHEL CARSON'S SILENT SPRING DESCRIBES ENVIRONMENTAL DANGERS

Carson, an environmentalist, a marine biologist, and an author, explained the environmental effects of the toxic chemicals in pesticides, and it increased public awareness of the problem.

 

1965, 1966

WATER POLLUTION CONTROL ACT IS AMENDED

(see First Water Pollution Control Act, 1952)

 

1969 JANUARY 28

SANTA BARBARA OIL SPILL

A massive oil spill of the coast of Santa Barbara, CA, focused the public's attention on oil pollution and environmental cleanup.

 

1969 OCTOBER 20

RESIDENTS OF PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA FORM GASP

GASP, the Group Against Smog and Pollution, is an alliance formed by residents to fight air pollution. They organized in order to work with as well as to educate the public and officials about this problem and to propose ambient air quality standards for Pittsburgh mandated by the Air Quality Act of 1967.

 

1969 NOVEMBER

GREENPEACE IS FOUNDED

This Canadian-based organization was first formed to combat nuclear testing. It soon developed into an international movement to preserve the environment.

 

1970s

1970 JANUARY 1

NEPA IS SIGNED

The National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA, mandates actions, such as building new power plants or highways, to be considered for their environmental effects before they are allowed to happen. This law grew from public pressures, and it covers construction, policies, and programs involving private industries as well as the government.

 

1970 APRIL 22

EARTH DAY 1970

Organized by government officials and environmentalists, the first Earth Day was a day filled with lectures, rallies, demonstrations, and conservation work for the entire country. About twenty million Americans observed the day which demonstrated the widespread appeal of environmental conservation.

 

1970 DECEMBER

EPA IS CREATED

The creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, by President Richard Nixon was the culmination of growing environmentalism in the country. Events including the first Earth Day and the signing of NEPA sparked this reorganization of the federal government.

 

1972

FEDERAL WATER POLLUTION CONTROL ACT IS AMENDED

This legislation was enacted to expand regulations under the original Water Pollution Control Act. It aimed to eliminate the discharge of pollutants by 1985; to restore the quality of water by 1983 to enable safe fishing, swimming, and other recreational activities; and to halt the dumping of toxic pollutants in large amounts.

 

1974

THE CATALYTIC CONVERTER IS INTRODUCED

In the Clean Air Act of 1970, President Richard Nixon Called for a reduction in motor vehicle emissions which the automobile companies thought was impossible. The catalytic converter was then invented which proved these companies wrong and reduced motor vehicle emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and hydrocarbon.

 

1974 JUNE 28

CFCs LEAD TO THE DESTRUCTION OF THE OZONE LAYER

Scientists at the University of California at Irvine discovered and announced that the release of chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere, with the help of sunlight, leads to the destruction of stratospheric ozone.

 

1976 OCTOBER 11

THE EPA REGULATES TOXIC CHEMICALS

With the passing of the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, now has the power to control the use of toxic chemicals. This law was an indirect result of the preceding Clean Air Act.

 

1978

LEAD PAINTS ARE BANNED

In an effort to limit the amount of lead in the atmosphere and the amount of cases of lead poisoning, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of lead paints.

 

1978 MARCH 17

UNITED STATES BANS CFCs

CFCs, chorofluorocarbons, have been proven to lead to the destruction of stratospheric ozone which may result in holes in this ozone layer that allow harmful ultraviolet rays to reach the earth. In an effort to stop ozone destruction, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration announced a ban on these chemicals.

 

 

1980s

1980s

RADON IS FOUND TO BE AN INDOOR AIR HAZARD

Radon gas, which is a radioactive decay product of uranium, has been known to cause thousands of deaths from cancer each year. Due to these deaths and the fact that many homes were found to have hazardous levels of this gas, the Environmental Protection Agency began an indoor air research program, and it issued the Radon Gas and Indoor Air Quality Research Act.

 

1984 DECEMBER 3

DEADLY GAS IS EMITTED IN BHOPAL, INDIA

A massive leak of methyl isocyanate from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal caused thousands of deaths and injuries to the residents of the city. This disaster woke the world to the dangers of toxic chemicals in the atmosphere.

 

1985 MAY 16

HOLE IN THE OZONE LAYER IS DISCOVERED

The British Antarctic Survey reported reductions in the amount of stratospheric ozone over Halley Bay in Antarctica which ultimately led to a hole in the ozone layer. Scientists were then able to partially attribute the cause to the concentrations of CFCs, chlorofluorocarbons, in the atmosphere.

 

1986

UNITED STATES PROPOSES STRONGER LEAD RESTRICTIONS

The United States government responded to the high levels of lead found in the atmosphere as well as in humans in the 1970s. The Clean Air Acts of this decade set restrictions on lead concentrations in products and banned lead paints, and throughout the 1980s the government became increasingly strict concerning these standards.

 

1986 JANUARY

UNITED STATES AND CANADA RECOGNIZE EFFECTS OF ACID RAIN

The Joint Report of the Special Envoys on Acid Rain was the result of a meeting between President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Researchers from each of these countries were appointed to study the effects of acid rain, and they came to the leaders with this report recognizing that this environmental issue is a transboundary problem that also dealt with socioeconomic and political concerns.

 

1988 OCTOBER 14

UNITED STATES PASSES ALTERNATIVE MOTOR FUELS ACT

This act required a number of government vehicles to use alternative fuels, such as methanol and ethanol, which gave the automobile industry incentive to develop these fuels and design automobiles to use them.

 

 

1990s

1990 JUNE 29

THE MONTREAL PROTOCOL IS DEVELOPED

The Montreal Protocol is an agreement between nations to combat stratospheric ozone depletion. Specifically, it calls for the phasing out of CFC use and the change to harmless substitutes. Members of the United Nations, representatives from ninety-three countries met in London to sign this agreement.

 

1990 NOVEMBER 5

THE POLLUTION PREVENTION ACT IS PASSED

This act was to go beyond the legislation for clean air and clean water, and it would deal with pollution at the source. Specifically, this law mandated the founding of the of the Office of Pollution Prevention within the Environmental Protection Agency, the authorization of funds to states in order to develop source-reduction programs, and the requirement of businesses to report toxic substance amounts in the air.

 

To read more about these events see Great Events From History II: Ecology and the Environment Series, Vol. 2-5, edited by Frank N. Magill, Pasadena, CA, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Salem Press, 1995.

 


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