A look back at first US air pollution legislation

Monday marks the 59th anniversary of the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955, the first federal air pollution legislation in the U.S. The act, signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, would prove to be a precursor to the Clean Air Acts of 1963 and 1970 and corresponding amendments passed in 1977 and 1990.  

While the 1955 law did little to actually curb air pollution, it provided $5 million over a five-year period for research into the issue. It also signaled the federal government’s recognition of air pollution as a growing national problem.

According to a 2005 paper out of Rice University's Shell Center for Sustainability, smog-related illnesses and deaths have grabbed headlines in the years preceding the air pollution act's passage. It noted epidemiological studies conducted in 1959 that attributed an additional 1,200 deaths in Los Angeles to smog during a 10-day span in August 1955. 

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The Clean Air Act of 1970, coming the same year as the formation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is viewed as one of the formative federal environmental laws passed, authorizing federal and state regulations to limit the release of emissions into the air from both stationary and mobile sources.

(h/t to www.Peacebuttons.info for noting the anniversary)

[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.]

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