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Articles & Resources From Combustion Controls Solutions & Environmental Services, Inc.

3132 Wilford Drive, Toledo, Ohio 43617
Phone: 419.841.9984    Fax: 419.841.9535

Big Clear Sky – A Short History of the Clean Air Act

Major advances over 50 years have led to cleaner air and groundbreaking technology.


The detrimental impact of industrialization to air quality in the United States went unchecked through federal legislation for most of the first half of the 20th Century. But following the 1948 industrial catastrophe in Donora, Pennsylvania – where a cloud of smog killed 20 and injured thousands – regulation of air quality came storming into the public consciousness.

The legal response gave birth the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955, the first steps in federal regulation of air quality. The first Clean Air Act of 1963 and the Air Quality Act of 1967 followed it. These pieces of legislation laid the ground rules for manufacturers in reference to air quality, including the first laws on controls, monitoring, funding for studies and remediation techniques.

All of these congressional actions were a prelude to the sweeping regulatory authority of the Clean Air Act of 1970. Under the power of this legislation, the administration of both federal and state controls on air pollutants came under the jurisdiction of the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency. It is considered the government’s first reaction to widespread modern environmental consciousness in the United States.

Some of the controls to air pollutants established by the Clean Air Act include the establishment of New Source Performance Standards for new technologies and National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants. With these standards in place, manufacturers developed new technologies to maintain their processes within the bounds of the new, vigorous enforcement.

Among the air pollution controls invented throughout the period of the Clean Air Act, Regenerative Thermal Oxidizers, also known as RTO, came to be a favorite of manufacturers using volatile organic compounds in their industry. The environment movement vilified many of these manufacturers –typically producers of fuel, pesticides and paint. Thankfully, the efficiency of Regenerative Thermal Oxidizers and subsequent thermal oxidizer repairs in the 1970s led to nearly 99 percent of all VOCs to be removed from production exhaust. It was a huge win for the manufacture, the environment and the legislation.

Following the initial rollout of the 1970 Clean Air Act, changes to the law occurred with Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977 and 1990. Among the changes in these amendments included programs for Acid Deposition Control, permit programs, expansion of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards and expanded enforcement authority.

With the controls generated by the important pieces of legislation, air quality has improved with nearly a four-fold decrease in pollutants governed by the laws. Learn more about RTO equipment and services.

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