4. mobile sources are of greater risks in public

4.
Update on Current EPA efforts to control air toxics pollution/exposure.

Air
toxics or toxic air pollutants or hazardous air pollutants are defined as, “the
pollutants that have potential effect to cause cancer or other serious health
effects, such as reproductive effects or birth defects or adverse environmental
and ecological effects”. Air toxics possesses a greater risk mainly in the
urban areas as the population is also high and the same is the number of the
emission sources. The combined effects of all the sources of air pollution
which includes stationary sources, small area sources, indoor and mobile
sources are of greater risks in public health conditions due to the air toxics.

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The
amendment of the Clean Air Act of 1990 made the reduction of urban air toxics as
the top priority for EPA. Also, the development of the Integrated Urban Air
Toxics Strategy in 1999 shows the step EPA has taken to control the air toxics
level. The significant reduction in urban air toxics in the last two decades is
all because of the EPA regulations and enforcement actions, as well as the
implementations of the state and local programs addressing emissions from both
the mobile and the stationary sources of pollutants. With all these efforts
too, additional working is necessary to improve the urban air toxic conditions
especially in the overburden communities.

Then
it was the year in 2009, as a part of the new air toxics monitoring initiative;
EPA, state and local air pollution control agencies started monitoring the
outdoor air quality around schools for the pollutants mainly known for toxic
air pollutants or air toxics. The main motive of EPA behind this was to assess
the outdoor air near schools to reduce the exposure of public from high level
of the pollutants which could result in long term health effects. EPA selected
different schools and with its partners at state and local control agencies
collected samples of outdoor air near the selected schools for over 60 days.
After that analysis of those samples to report the levels of air toxics was
done and necessary actions were formulated to reduce the levels of the
pollutants of concerns. EPA’s only mission is to reduce the amount of toxic
pollutants in the daily air that we breathe. This study was also one of the
effort made by EPA which helped for better understanding of the air quality
around the selected schools throughout the United States.

EPA
itself is supporting many educational and outreach initiatives in creating
better understandings among people regarding the air toxics which includes:

a)      Community
based programs: EPA is supporting communities to understand, prioritize and
reduce the air toxic pollutants exposure in their local environment through
programs like CARE (Community Action for a Renewed Environment).

b)      Training
Programs: EPA is also conducting trainings programs through the institute for
Tribal Environment Professionals, The Online Air Pollution Training Institute,
and the Environmental Justice Community, which are delivering responsible
information to state, tribal and local partners implementing the air toxics
rules.

c)      EPA
funding: EPA is also funding for air monitoring initiatives which includes
monitoring near roadways in larger cities and providing grants for community
scale air monitoring which is empowering communities and individuals to take
proper actions avoiding air pollution exposures using routine and low cost
portable air pollution sensors.

d)       Partnerships: EPA making partnership with
various organizations like: National Association of Clean Air Agencies, National
Tribal Air Association and the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council
is raising awareness in local air toxics issues. 1,2

EPA
is deliberately working on the reduction of Air toxics and has found that only
the national regulations alone would not be enough to address all the issues
regarding the air toxics, particularly those affecting the urban areas. Thus,
EPA also formulated Integrated Urban Air Toxics Strategy which consists of four
key components:

·        
Source Specific and sector-based standards:
It includes the regulations which are designed to address national level
toxics.

·        
National, regional and community-based
initiatives: Which focuses mainly on multimedia and cumulative risks;
addressing and resolving issues related at local level with partnership of
state, tribal and local government and community stakeholders.

·        
National level air toxics Assessment: Different
types of tools such as emission related inventories, different types of monitoring
networks and analytical assessments are used to identify the risks and track progress
which help to prioritize the efforts to control the air toxics.

·        
Outreach and education: It consists of the
various activities that involves state, tribal and local agencies, cities,
communities and other groups and organizations that are helping EPA to
implement its programs to reduce the air toxics emissions. 3

Apart
from all these the National Scale Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) is EPA’s ongoing
comprehensive evaluation of Air Toxics in the United States. EPA developed NATA
as a state-of-the-science screening tool for every agency working in pollution
control to prioritize pollutants, emission sources and develop locations of
interest for further study with better understanding of risk. Only the general
information is used by the NATA assessment about the sources and the risks are
estimated, which is then more likely to overestimate the impacts rather than to
underestimate them.  

NATA
provides the estimates of the risks of cancer and other serious health effects
by breathing the air toxics which in turn helps the air pollution experts to
focus more on the areas where the potential health risks are at highest level. This
assessment provides a clear visual of the outdoor air quality and the potential
risks to human health that might occur if the air toxics emissions level
remains the same.

The
results that are obtained from NATA assessments are used in prioritizing
pollutants and emission sources which can also be used for further
investigations, additional to that to inform and involve community efforts for
monitoring outdoor air toxics.

EPA
uses the results obtained from the assessment for:

Ø  Setting
priorities for improving data in emission inventories.

Ø  Expanding
EPA’s air toxic monitoring network and more effectively target the risk
reduction activities.

Ø  Identifying
the pollutants and sources of greater concern so that to improve the
understanding of the risks from air toxics.

Ø  Working
with communities to design their own assessment and to link air toxics to the
criteria pollutant program.

Also,
the NATA assessment should not be used for the analysis of air toxics in smaller
areas, rather other methods like monitoring and local scale assessment should
be used to find potential hot spots using more refined and localized data.

NATA
assessment is generally developed in following four steps:

Ø  Compiling
national emission inventories from outdoor sources.

Ø  Estimating
ambient concentrations of air toxics across the United States.

Ø  Estimating
population exposures across the United States.

Ø  Characterizing
potential public health risks due to the inhalation of air toxics.

Therefore,
we can say that NATA is a collaborative process developed by EPA where it
collaborates with the state, local and tribal agencies to develop the
information that is contained in the assessment. Besides that, EPA also
collaborated with EPA’s Science Advisory Board which concluded NATA as, “an
important step towards characterizing the relationship between sources and risk
of hazardous air pollutants.” 4

EPA
developed this assessment tool to collect valuable information which would help
in reduction of the air toxic emissions. Also, EPA suggests using the results
of this assessment cautiously, as the assessment may vary from location to
location also from pollutants to pollutants. These are certain limitations of
NATA:

Ø  Results
are basically applied to geographic areas, not to specific locations.

Ø  Results
do not show the impacts from the sources of neighboring countries. (i.e. Canada
or Mexico)

Ø  Results
fails to show the exposures and risks from all compounds and only shows the
impacts of the compounds that are released into the outdoor air.

Ø  Results
are basically applied to a group, not to the specific individuals.

Ø  Results
do not actually show the pathways of exposure.

Ø  Results
are generally restricted to the year only as the analysis for the year is only
used.

Ø  The
estimates of risks are uncertain in the results. 5

From all the above-mentioned
facts EPA is making a lot of efforts for creating awareness and creating better
understandings in public related to air toxics their harmful effects and the
ways we can follow to minimize the air toxics and their potential risks.

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