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Physicians for Social Responsibility Highlights the Health Benefits of the Clean Air Act and Points to Further Opportunities for Saving Lives

May 3, 2011

Washington, D.C. (May 3, 2011)—Today, Physicians for Social Responsibility released its report, The Clean Air Act: A Proven Tool for Healthy Air.  The report provides a critical review of the health protections achieved through air pollution prevention.  Though progress has been made in cleaning America’s air, PSR’s new report identifies how pollution continues to threaten the health of Americans, and cautions that efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act will be at the expense of the health of vulnerable populations. 

Those most at risk to poor air quality include people with respiratory ailments such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, people with cardiovascular disease, young children, the elderly and communities that bear the greatest burden of air pollution emissions.  “It is our deep concern of the human suffering these people face resulting from dangerous air pollution that compels Physicians for Social Responsibility to stand united with others in the health community to promote clean and healthy air for all,” said Peter Wilk, Physicians for Social Responsibility Executive Director.

The Clean Air Act: A Proven Tool for Healthy Air describes the air pollution calamities and political history that led to the passage of one of the most monumental public health laws in our history.  Real improvements in air quality occurred in the US only after consistent federal standards were set for the whole nation.  The Clean Air Act: A Proven Tool for Healthy Air report describes several key air pollution prevention programs that are responsible for the public health protections.

“The Clean Air Act is one of the most remarkable and successful public health laws ever enacted,” said John Suttles, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.  “It has protected tens of millions of American lives, yielding public health benefits that dwarf the cost to industry.  The ongoing assault by certain industries and politicians against the Act shows all too clearly that despite the unrivaled success of the Clean Air Act, some still value profits and politics over public health.”

“However, pitting the societal value of public health improvements against economic growth and stability has shown to be a false dichotomy with respect to the Clean Air Act,” said Kristen Welker-Hood, Physicians for Social Responsibility Director of Environment and Health Programs.  “Considerable reductions in dangerous air pollutants were achieved at the same time the U.S. population and economy grew.  In fact, according to a recent EPA study for every dollar spent on reducing air pollution the nation has made back $30 dollars in health benefits.”

The Clean Air Act: A Proven Tool for Healthy Air finds that the Clean Air Act is working.  Air emission levels for six of the most common air pollutants (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, lead, ozone, and particulates) have been steadily declining and are expected to continue to decline with additional pollution prevention actions. The Clean Air Act: A Proven Tool for Healthy Air calls attention to the fact that breathing air toxics from outdoor sources contributes to 30% of our overall average lifetime cancer risk.  The report calls for necessary pollution controls of toxic air pollutants emitted from power plants, industrial boilers, and cement kilns to protect some of our most vulnerable populations.

Physicians for Social Responsibility urges health professionals and the broad public to voice support for the EPA in its legally mandated role of reducing air pollution and making America’s air safe to breathe.  To protect the health of your community PSR offers two suggestions for action:  Visit and sign up to become an activist; submit citizen comments supporting the EPA’s proposed rule to reduce mercury, other hazardous air pollutants and acid gas emissions from coal and oil-fired power plants. 


Physicians for Social Responsibility is the largest physician-led organization in the country conveying both the health risks and threats to human survival posed by nuclear weapons, climate change, and toxic degradation of the environment.  Founded in 1961 by physicians concerned about the impact of nuclear proliferation, PSR shared the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War for building public pressure to end the nuclear arms race.  PSR is dedicated to improving national policy formulation and decision-making about security, energy and the environment through the combined efforts of credible, committed health professionals and our active and concerned citizen members.  For more information, go to 


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