Benefits of 1990 clean air amendments outweigh costs by four-to-one margin

provided by US Environmental Protection Agency

he economic value of the public health and environmental benefits that Americans enjoy from the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 exceed their costs by a margin of four-to-one, according to a new EPA study. The report projects that the Clean Air Act Amendments and their associated programs prevent thousands of premature deaths related to air pollution, and millions of asthma attacks as well as a wide range of additional human health and ecological effects.

"This Administration has enacted the most stringent public health and environmental standards ever while creating unprecedented economic growth," said President Bill Clinton. "This report further demonstrates that public health and environmental benefits can be achieved along with economic benefits, and this Administration will continue to work aggressively to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land on which we live."

Using a sophisticated array of computer models and the latest emissions and cost data, the EPA study shows that in the year 2010 the Amendments of 1990 will prevent 23,000 Americans from dying prematurely, and avert over 1,700,000 incidences of asthma attacks and aggravation of chronic asthma. In addition, in 2010, they will prevent 67,000 incidences of chronic and acute bronchitis, 91,000 occurrences of shortness of breath, 4,100,000 lost work days, and 31,000,000 days in which Americans would have had to restrict activity due to air pollution related illness. Plus, 22,000 respiratory-related hospital admissions would be averted, as well as 42,000 cardiovascular (heart and blood) hospital admissions, and 4,800 emergency room visits for asthma.

The report, the most comprehensive and extensive assessment of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments ever conducted, was the subject of extensive peer review, during which independent panels of distinguished economists, scientists, and public health experts provided in-depth assessment and advice throughout the study's design, implementation, and documentation.

For those health and ecological benefits which could be quantified and converted to dollar values, EPA's best estimate is that in 2010 the benefits of Clean Air Act programs will total about $110 billion. This estimate represents the value of avoiding increases in illness and premature death that would have prevailed without the clean air standards and provisions required by the Amendments. By contrast, the detailed cost analysis conducted for this new study indicates that the costs of achieving these health and ecological benefits are likely to be only about $27 billion, a fraction of the economic value of the benefits.

That report notes that, beyond the quantified human health benefits, there are a wide range of additional human health and environmental benefits that scientists and economists cannot yet quantify and express in dollar terms. These include the control of cancer-causing air toxics as well as benefits to crops and ecosystems of reducing pollutants such as ozone and particulate matter.

The study is the second in a series of EPA cost/benefit Reports to Congress, examining the effects of the Clean Air Act on the US economy, public health, and the environment. The first study, a retrospective assessment released in October 1997, found that the benefits of 1970 to 1990 clean air programs greatly exceeded costs.

The prospective study is issued under Section 812 of the Clean Air Act Amendments, a provision requiring that EPA periodically assess the effect of the Clean Air Act on the public health, economy, and environment of the country. The report, "The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990," will be available on the Internet at: A limited number of paper copies of the report will be available from Barbara Morris at 202-564-1666 or by email at For further technical information, contact Jim Democker at 202-564-1673, or email at: