Before the passing of the Clean Air Act of 1970, there was precursor to it, which was Clean Air Act of 1963. At the time it was passed, there was no national effort to limit air pollution. This pollution came from numerous sources and people were just becoming aware of how bad the health effects of the pollution could be. Individual states and even local governments had already been passing litigation since the 1940s – 1950s but concern was still growing over air pollution, its health effects, and incidents in large cities.
The period during which people started to initially becoming aware of the harmful effects of air pollution was probably near the 1920s. After that, air pollution started to become a bigger issue in relation to other problems that the nation was facing. Several incidents in the next fifty years only furthered the need for research and action.
In 1926, an air pollution survey took place in Salt Lake City that was the largest of its kind ever done in the United States. By 1928, the Public Health Service started monitoring air pollution in the eastern cities of the United States. They reported that New York City was receiving twenty to fifty percent less sunlight than it should have been because of air pollution.
A large air pollution problem occurred in 1948 in Donora, Pennsylvania. An air pollution inversion left twenty people dead and nearly six thousand sick in just a few days time. At the same time in London, England, over six hundred deaths were reported due to smog. In the following year, 1949, the first national conference concerning air pollution was sponsored by the Public Health Service in the United States.
Shortly after those events, sulfur-laden smog covered parts of London in 1952 and was responsible for over four thousand deaths in just a two week period. While this event wasn’t in the United States, the news of its occurrence greatly shocked people around the world. The next year, New York experienced its own smog related incident and almost two hundred people were killed.
In 1955, Congress passed the Air Pollution Control Act but this only identified that air pollution was a major concern and announced that research and other steps need to be taken. Later in 1963, the beginnings of the Clean Air Act were passed by Congress. That same year, an air pollution inversion in New York caused the deaths of four hundred and five people. Another air polluting inversion in New York occured in 1968 claimed the lives of one hundred sixty eight people.
As the years led up to the passing of the Clean Air Act of 1963, the health problems and potential for further deaths due to air pollution was realized. Research into better technology, the effects of air pollution, and the methods to limit air pollution was already being looked into. It was really during the 1960s that environmental litigation concerning air pollution became a very big concern because it was then that illness and health effects were linked to air pollution. Several amendments were made to the 1963 act but the Clean Air Act of 1970 was the core provisions of what we know as today’s Clean Air act.