Awareness of air quality is healthy, but exaggeration of pollution levels is dangerous, Joel M. Schwartz and Steven F. Hayward argue in Air Quality in America: A Dose of Reality on Air Pollution Levels, Trends, and Health Risks (AEI Press, January 2008). This detailed, data-driven book rebuts mistaken perceptions that U.S. air quality is bad by documenting marked improvements over the past decades. "We show how results-focused regulatory policies can maintain healthful air," Schwartz and Hayward write, "while avoiding the collateral damage caused by the perverse incentives inherent in the current system."
Air Quality in America lays out five findings that undermine conventional wisdom about U.S. air quality: pollution levels have decreased despite increases in nominally "polluting" activities; the parts of the country with the highest pollution levels have improved the most; air quality will continue to improve in coming decades; pollution affects fewer people, less often, and with less severity than commonly believed; and, finally, regulators and activists often inflate air pollution levels and obscure positive trends. For example, the American Lung Association exaggerates the problem by applying local air pollution data to entire counties and regions, including large areas without substantial pollution.
Even worse, activists and journalists routinely ignore--or even mask--improvements in air quality. "Few Americans are aware of the vast improvement in the nation’s air quality," Schwartz and Hayward write. "Instead, many even believe air quality has worsened, will worsen further in the future, and is still a serious threat to most people’s health." Air Quality in America shows that the opposite is true.
For more information about this book, visit www.aei.org/book918/.