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From health-based to technology-based standards for hazardous air pollutants


The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 represent a major shift in regulatory emphasis for toxic air pollutants. Recognizing the immediate public health benefits that can be gained from the application of currently available and affordable control technologies, Congress has abandoned its insistence that health risks should be the only consideration in establishing emissions standards. Previously excluded concerns about economic costs and technological feasibility will now determine the initial level of pollution control required of toxic air pollution sources. In exchange for reducing the stringency of emissions limits, the newly amended act extends the scope of regulation by listing 189 toxic substances that must be controlled over the next decade. This exchange of regulatory depth for breadth occurs against a history of reluctance by the Environmental Protection Agency to implement the original health-protective language of the Clean Air Act. It mirrors earlier compromises under the Clean Water Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

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