US air quality declines after years of improvement

A layer of smog covers Downtown and the nearby areas in Los Angeles, Calif, on August 14, 2019.

Contrary to President Donald Trump’s claim last week that “our air right now and our water right now is as clean as it’s been in decades,” a new report indicates that the opposite is true: The United States’ air quality has worsened since 2016.

The worsening air quality trend, which saw fine particulate pollution increase 5.5% between 2016 and 2018, reverses a decade of improving air quality in the United States, during which fine particulate pollution fell nearly 25%, according to a working paper published this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Worsening air quality differed by region, with levels remaining flat in the Northeast and Southern parts of the country, while the Midwest and West saw increases of 9.3% and 11.5%, respectively.

At the same time, the researchers note, enforcement of environmental regulations like the Clean Air Act has declined over time. Dozens of air pollution and emissions regulations have been rolled back since 2016 alone.

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