EPA updates National Air Toxics Assessment
by Environmental Protection Agency
March 13, 2011
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released the fourth update of a computer tool that helps federal, state, local governments and other stakeholders better understand the potential health risks from exposure to air toxics. The National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) contains 2005 emissions data submitted primarily from the states for 178 pollutants. Models are used to make broad estimates of health risks for areas of the country. The tool is not designed to determine actual health risks to individuals living in these areas.
Because the data submitted varies from state to state, it is also not possible to use the data to compare risks between different areas of the country.
The assessment shows that EPA, the states, and industry are continuing to make progress to reduce air toxic emissions. Between 1990 and 2005, air toxic emissions were reduced by about 42 percent from industrial and mobile sources.
NATA is used to identify which geographic areas, pollutants and types of emission sources might need closer investigation to more fully characterize potential risks and determine if actions may need to be taken to protect public health. EPA can also use the assessment to work with communities to design their own local assessment, improve the agency’s emissions inventories and identify priorities for expanding the air toxics monitoring network. Once risks are fully characterized, state air agencies can decide if steps should be taken to reduce air toxics emissions.
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA issues standards for industrial and mobile sources of air toxic emissions. These sources emit millions of tons of toxic air emissions that can cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as reproductive or birth defects, or adverse environmental and ecological impacts.
More information on NATA and instructions on using the tool: http://www.epa.gov/nata2005