Environmental Progress Since the First Earth Day

Earth Day 2000 Fact Sheet

Environmental Progress Since the First Earth Day

  • Air Quality: The nation’s air quality index shows that air quality in the U.S. has improved 42% since 1980 due to a significant decrease in the levels of the six major air pollutants: carbon monoxide (CO); ozone, or smog (O3); particulate matter, or soot (PM); sulfur dioxide, or acid rain (SO2); lead (Pb); and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Between 1976 and 1997, carbon monoxide levels fell 66.4%; ozone levels decreased by 30.9%; particulate matter dropped 22.5%; sulfur dioxide levels fell 66.7%; nitrogen dioxide levels decreased by 37.9% and lead levels dropped 97.3%. The number of cities not meeting national ambient air quality standards for ozone decreased from 199 in 1990 to fewer than 70 by 1995. Between 1988 and 1997, the number of unhealthy air days experienced by southern California fell 56%. Source: Index of Leading Environmental Indicators, Pacific Research Institute; National Air Quality and Emissions Trend Report, EPA, 1997.

  • Water Quality: Between 1972 and 1992, 98% of miles of rivers and streams sustained or improved their quality. During the same period, 96% of miles of lakes maintained or improved quality. Source: Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators, America’s Clean Water: The States’ Evaluation of Progress, 1972-1992, 1999, p. 2.

  • Hazardous Waste: Since 1970, land disposal of hazardous waste has declined, both in tons stored a year and in number of landfills. The amount of hazardous waste stored declined from 2.9 million tons in 1985 to 1.3 million tons in 1995. During the same period, the number of active storage facilities fell from 249 to 68. Source: The National Biennial RCRA Hazardous Waste Report, EPA (Reports 1987 to 1997).

  • Automobile Emissions: Between 1970 and 1997, total emissions of the six principal air pollutants decreased 31% even though the number of vehicle miles traveled increased 127%, the U.S. population increased 31% and the gross domestic product increased 114%. Source: Six Principal Pollutants – Summary of Air Quality and Emissions Trends.

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