Clean Air & Public Health Experts and Policymakers Celebrate 50 Years of the Clean Air Act at Virtual Symposium

‘Clean Air for All’ online symposium highlights progress made and remaining obstacles to ensure clean air for all Americans

Fifty years after the passage of the Clean Air Act – the landmark public health law that has saved millions of American lives – policymakers, air quality experts, physicians and public health experts celebrated the anniversary and shared their insights into new and remaining threats to air quality during a virtual symposium.

“Clean Air for All: 50 Years of the Clean Air Act” was hosted by the American Lung Association and American University’s Center for Environmental Policy and Center for Environmental Filmmaking. The half-day event included several panel discussions featuring Clean Air Act author Tom Jorling; former EPA administrators Bill Reilly, Carol Browner and Gina McCarthy (who served both Democratic and Republican administrations); prominent environmental justice leaders; public health and climate experts, and more.

Recordings of each panel discussion will be posted here when available.

“It was an honor to participate in today’s event to celebrate the Clean Air Act and its legacy,” said Former EPA Administrator Bill Reilly. “As a result of the Clean Air Act, we have seen hundreds of thousands of lives saved every single year. We must continue to protect the Clean Air Act, and set our sights on the public health threat of climate change. This will be the next challenge for our nation, and we already see the impact of climate change in our air quality - from wildfire smoke to increased ozone pollution from rising temperatures. It’s critical that we take action to save lives.”

“For 50 years, the Clean Air Act has driven dramatic improvements in air quality and real health benefits for American families,” said American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer, who provided opening remarks at the virtual event. “Today’s symposium made clear that this lifesaving health law should not be taken for granted. Leading experts called attention to the fact that nearly half of Americans – including many communities of color – are breathing unhealthy air, and still waiting for the clean air promised by this law. Our work isn’t done until all Americans are breathing clean, healthy air.”

In recognition of 50 years of the Clean Air Act, the American Lung Association is celebrating improvements in air quality and championing a future of clean air for all. Through its new Stand Up For Clean Air initiative, the Lung Association is asking everyone to pledge to take action, because everyone has a role to play in addressing climate change and protecting lung health.

“As we celebrate this public health progress, we reaffirm our commitment to the Clean Air Act and to fulfilling its promise of healthy air for all communities,” Wimmer said. “In order to protect air quality, we must address climate change. Climate change is making it even harder to clean up air pollution – warmer temperatures and changing climate patterns drive greater ozone pollution formation and more intense and frequent wildfires, which contribute to particle pollution. Ozone and particle pollution cause serious health harms, including causing respiratory and cardiovascular harm, triggering asthma attacks, and worsening symptoms for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Supporting the Clean Air Act and standing up for clean air have never been more critical.”

Today’s event built on the recent premiere of “Unbreathable: The Fight For Healthy Air,” a documentary film about the legacy and future of the Clean Air Act produced by the American University Center for Environmental Filmmaking. You can watch the film’s trailer here.

“Our goal with ‘Unbreathable’ is to provide a catalyst for motivating community and civic action. Now, more than ever, we need to fight for the basic human right of healthy air for everyone,” said film director and executive producer Maggie Burnette Stogner. 

Learn more about the symposium at

For media seeking to learn more about the “Unbreathable: The Fight for Healthy Air” documentary or arrange an interview with a symposium speaker or an expert about lung health, air pollution and climate change, contact Allison MacMunn at the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 312-801-7628.

For more information, contact:

Allison MacMunn
[email protected]

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