Air pollution has been a topic of intense concern and study for hundreds of years. During the second half of the 20th century, the United States implemented regulations and controls to reduce the levels of criteria air pollutants and achieve the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for the protection of human health, while concurrently reducing the levels of toxic air pollutants.
In this commentary we trace the changes in air pollution in New Jersey as a case study, demonstrating the impact of local, state, and federal strategies to control emissions of pollutants and pollutant precursors from the 1950s until today.
Assuming no reversals on current regulations because of some major event or energy infrastructure disruption, outdoor air pollution reductions will continue to address health risks among specific segments of the general population affected by ozone/PM and pollution caused by neighborhood, local, and regional point and mobile sources.
The original NAAQS (1970-1995) have been achieved, and significant progress has been made to achieve revised standards for ozone and particulate matter (PM) < 2.5 µm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5) in New Jersey, which in the past was considered a highly polluted industrial state.