Skip to Main Content

We have a new app!

Take the Access library with you wherever you go—easy access to books, videos, images, podcasts, personalized features, and more.

Download the Access App here: iOS and Android

  • Air Pollution in Perspective

    • A Brief History of Air Pollution and Its Regulation

  • Tools to Assess Risks Associated with Air Pollution

    • Animal-to-Human Extrapolation: Issues and Mitigating Factors

  • Overarching Concepts

    • What is an Adverse Health Effect?

    • Susceptibility

  • Exposure

    • Air Pollution: Sources and Personal Exposure

      • Indoor versus Outdoor

      • Indoor Air in the Developing World

      • The Evolving Profile of Outdoor Air Pollution

  • Epidemiological Evidence of Health Effects

    • Outdoor Air Pollution

      • Acute and Episodic Exposures

      • Long-Term Exposures

  • Pollutants of Outdoor Ambient Air

    • Classic Reducing-Type Air Pollution

      • Sulfur Dioxide

      • Sulfuric Acid and Related Sulfates

    • Particulate Matter

      • Metals

      • Gas–Particle Interactions

      • Ultrafine Carbonaceous Matter

      • Chronic Effects and Cancer

    • Photochemical Air Pollution

    • Short-Term Exposures to Smog

    • Chronic Exposures to Smog

    • Ozone

    • Nitrogen Dioxide

    • Other Oxidants

    • Aldehydes

    • Formaldehyde

    • Acrolein

    • Carbon Monoxide

    • Hazardous Air Pollutants

    • Accidental versus “Fence-Line” Exposures

  • The Multipollutant Reality of Air Pollution

  • Conclusions

Air Pollution in Perspective

The second half of the 20th century was marked by remarkable changes in how the public viewed its relationship to the environment. Until that time, national pride and prosperity were often depicted as an expanse of urban factories with smokestacks belching opaque dark clouds of industrial effluent into a neutral blue sky. But the price of that unchecked human progress through the first half of the century led to several air pollution catastrophes highlighting the profoundly detrimental impact that reckless prosperity could have on the environment. These images of “modern” life gradually gave rise to public outcry for governmental action to protect air quality and public health—a challenge to industry that had been focused on economic growth alone. The ensuing 50 years of regulatory legislation in the United States and Western Europe along with cost-efficient innovations by the private sector have remade this industrial image in most technologically developed nations.

Ironically, as regulatory control measures began to reduce emissions from stationary industrial sources of air pollution, highways to “open spaces” and urban flight took many people to the suburbs with its cleaner air and safe, comfortable lifestyle. Meanwhile, the developing world saw little of this growth and what has grown is frequently cast-off old technology and variants of exploitation by the Western corporations attracted by abundant resources, a cheap workforce, and few regulations of constraints. This situation has persisted into the 21st century but is evolving with broader globalization of improved technology and communication.

The change in land use and demography in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s altered the national character and distribution of air pollution. The commute from suburban home to city workplace back to suburban home led increasingly to congested thoroughfares, whose emissions contributed to a photochemical cauldron of oxidant air pollution around expanding metro–suburban areas. Moreover, postwar population growth and rising expectations for a better (peace-time) standard of living led to unrestrained consumption, including inexpensive gasoline for commuting and recreation.

Today, the search is worldwide for cheap oil to fuel transportation and goods movement ...

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.