Clean Air Act

The classic command and control system of the clean air Act concentrates on controlling air pollution to the minimum level. Environmental laws specify allowable quantities of pollution and laws detailing which control technologies are under the command and control regulation category. These laws require the affected firm to increase production costs by installing anti-pollution equipment; thus, organizations must factor in the social pollution cost. The law needs the EPA to create national ambient air quality standards based on the latest science to protect health and national welfare. The classic command and control system must maintain three ambient, emission, and technology standards. The standard ambient limits (never-exceed) allowable pollution in a certain environment. In contrast, the emission standards are ‘never-exceed’ pollution laws that limit pollutant emission from a process (Schmalensee & Stavins, 2019). The last sets the maximum emission limit, and the polluting firm decides methods to achieve it. Lastly, the technology standards dictate the methods or technology that the polluting agents need to adopt to safeguard the environment. Here, the standards dictate a certain decision requiring them to use a given technology.

While the classic command and control system of the clean air act has assisted in protecting the environment, they have had shortcomings. These laws offer limited flexibility on how and where to minimize pollution and provide no incentives for achieving or exceeding the required pollution limits (Cole, 2020). In addition, these laws are often politically motivated and may not be evidence-based.

Main Health Effect of Air Pollution

Exposure to high levels of air pollution leads to various adverse health outcomes. WHO indicates that 90% of individuals breathe air that exceeds their guidelines (Lanzi et al.,2018). Some of the most common pollutants include ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and lead. All these pollutants have health hazardous. Research by Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air released a global extensive air pollution report and its effect. The report indicates that air pollution costs totalled $2.9 billion in 2018, equivalent to $3.3% of global GDP. Air pollution is the major Earth’s environmental health threat and kills an estimated 7 million people worldwide annually (Lanzi et al.,2018). The number of death is projected to increase to approximate 9 million in 2060 (MyllyVirta, 2020). The significant increase is limited to high concentration ozone and particulate matter and increased ageing population and urbanization, increasing exposure. Death related to air pollution has an economic cost of $2400 billion for adults and $50 billion for children totalling $2450 billion (MyllyVirta, 2020). Air pollution premature death is the most worrying and significant impact of air pollution.

Furthermore, air pollution adversely affects individuals’ health, affecting their production on typical work activities. High air pollutants increase the disability from chronic diseases with an economic cost of $200 billion annually. Sick leaves account for $100 billion. Lost working days due to air pollution are estimated to be 3.75 billion days by 2060 (MyllyVirta, 2020). Additional air pollution cost includes $90 billion for preterm births and 17 billion for Asthma annually.


The Air Quality Control Region is a federal designed area needed to meet and maintain federal ambient and air quality control standards (Turney & Pearson, 2019). These regions are the same state nearby surroundings, states, cities, counties, or other government entities with similar pollution challenges. In some cases, AQCR may cross-state line, and the affected states must collaborate in establishing strategies for control. Each AQCR is treated as a unit.

The AQCR is classified as attainment and non-attainment depending on the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The attainment status indicates that an Air District achieves or exceeds the standards that have been set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (federal). At the same time, the non-attainment areas fail to meet the national standards (O’Leary et al., 2022). States are mandated with developing plans and implementing programs to meet and maintain NAAQS.

 For instance, Michigan State is an attainment area. However, attainment status applies to counties and towns in some cases. Areas where air pollution levels consistently stay the stipulated standards must observe the level of carbon monoxide (CO), lead (Pb), nitrogen oxides (NO2), ground-level ozone, particular matter, sulfur dioxide, sulfates, and nitrates (Turney & Pearson, 2019). Michigan has consistently maintained the levels of CO, Pb, NO2, and particular matters. Michigan’s non-attainment areas are marginal and fail to meet the NAAQS levels by having high sulfur dioxide and ozone (O’Leary et al., 2022). Non-attainment counties in Michigan include Wayne, St. Clair, Allegan, and Muskegon. Notably, NAAQS often keeps raising standards and increasing restrictions to protect public health. For instance, the 120 part per billion (ppb) ozone standard has consistently been lowered to 80, 75, 65 ppbs and will seemingly decrease with different administrations (O’Leary et al., 2022). Once declared non-attainment, these regions must implement plans outlining how and when the standards will be met by reducing pollutant emission.



Schmalensee, R., & Stavins, R. N. (2019). Policy evolution under the clean air act. Journal of Economic Perspectives33(4), 27-50.

Cole, D. H. (2020). Explaining the persistence of ‘command-and-control in US environmental law. In Elgar Encyclopedia of Environmental Law (pp. 157-169). Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.

Lanzi, E., Dellink, R., & Chateau, J. (2018). The sectoral and regional economic consequences of outdoor air pollution to 2060. Energy Economics71, 89-113.

MyllyVirta, L. (2020). Quantifying the Economic Costs of Air Pollution from Fossil Fuels. Retrieved 22 February 2022, from.

Turney, J. B., & Pearson, E. Z. (2019). Air Quality: TCEQ Redesignation Request and Maintenance Plan for the HGB Area’s One-Hour and 1997 Eight-Hour Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Tex. Envtl. LJ49, 339.

O’Leary, B. F., Hill, A. B., Akers, K. G., Esparra-Escalera, H. J., Lucas, A., Raoufi, G., … & Dittrich, T. M. (2022). Air quality monitoring and measurement in an urban airshed: Contextualizing datasets from the Detroit, Michigan area from 1952 to 2020. Science of The Total Environment809, 152120.