What is the Air Toxics Program?
The California Air Resource Board’s air toxics program aims to reduce exposure to air emissions of toxic chemicals for all Californians. There are several components to the program, including:
- Identification and control of air toxic substances.
- Public notification of significant toxics exposures and a process to reduce these risks.
- Addressing health impacts to communities, children, and other sensitive receptors.
What drives the program?
Several pieces of legislation created the foundation for California’s air toxics program. The program started in 1983 with the passage of Assembly Bill 1807, which requires CARB to identify and control toxic air pollutants. Since then, CARB has identified more than 200 toxic air pollutants and has adopted and implemented 26 airborne toxic control measures. Some of the air toxics that have been identified and controlled include: benzene in gasoline, hexavalent chromium from chrome platers, perchloroethylene from dry cleaners, and diesel exhaust from cars and trucks.
Other programs have helped shape California’s air toxics program. The passage of the Hot Spots Information and Assessment Act (Assembly Bill 2588) in 1988 created a program that requires commercial facilities to report their air toxics emissions, identify facilities that pose significant health risks and to reduce their emissions.
Most recently, in 2017, Assembly Bill 617 was signed into law establishing the Community Air Protection Program. The program’s focus is to reduce exposure in communities experiencing high cumulative exposure to air pollution including air toxic chemicals. Many of these occur within disadvantaged communities.
How do we see benefits?
As a result of these measures, more than 30,000 facilities have reduced their toxic emissions. This has led to the reduction of ambient cancer risk in California by about 80 percent since 1990. Several communities also have established community emission reduction plans that outline actions that stationary facilities and mobile sources can take to further reduce harmful air pollutants.
What is next for air toxics?
Exposure to air toxics is still a significant concern in California and especially in disadvantaged communities. CARB is looking to prioritize and evaluate sources of air toxics pollutants within these communities, and looking for opportunities to reduce exposures to these pollutants.
CARB is working now on efforts to continue to reduce exposure to a few specific air toxics. Amendments to the chrome plating control measure and the composite wood products control measure are expected in late 2021 and early 2022, respectively. These two control measures will help to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals in environmental justice communities as well as throughout the state of California as there are numerous chrome platers operating in or near these communities and composite wood products are used in all communities.
How can you get involved?
CARB's goal is to ensure all voices are heard as we work to reduce community exposure to air toxics. Starting in the fall of 2020, CARB will hold meetings on topics related to air toxics. Meetings will range from technical workgroups on specific toxics issues (e.g. hexavalent chrome and formaldehyde emissions) to public forums where wide-ranging topics can be discussed. Community members are encouraged to attend and make their voices heard.
CARB will also provide information about the state’s air toxics program through a series of bulletins highlighting actions the Board has taken to reduce air toxics, and updating communities on both ongoing improvements and regulatory actions. CARB also will seek input from communities on air toxics-related needs and concerns, and provide opportunities for public involvement.
For more information on how to get involved, contact Michaela Nucal.