Clean Air Act
| Please note that this page refers
to federal requirements. State and local regulations
The Clean Air Act (CAA) is the comprehensive Federal law
that regulates air emissions from area, stationary, and mobile sources. This
page provides some background information on what the law covers, and indicates
how it affects healthcare facilities. Refer also to the HERC
Air Permitting page for additional information.
on the CAA
The federal Clean Air Act (CAA) and its amendments are designed
to “protect and enhance the nation's air resources so as to promote the
public health and welfare and the productive capacity of the population.”
The CAA consists of six sections, known as Titles, which
direct EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), and
for EPA, states, and tribes to implement, maintain, and enforce these standards
through a variety of mechanisms. It includes
programs to address smog, acid rain, stratospheric ozone protection, and air
toxics. Most of the sections applicable to healthcare facilities are
found in Title I. A few very large facilities may come under the permit
requirements for major sources spelled out in Title V. As for the other
- Title II covers moving sources (motor vehicles, aircraft,
- Title III covers some general legal and monitoring issues
- Title IV covers acid rain issues
- Title VI covers stratospheric ozone protection
Note that while the federal law establishes the basic standards,
it is generally up to state, tribal, and local governments to manage and enforce
many of its requirements.
You can access the CAA
regulations through the Electronic
Code of Federal Regulations ("e-CFR") provided by the Government
Printing Office. CAA Regulations can be found in 40
CFR Parts 50-99.
CAA regulations cover certain types of equipment that are
operated by many healthcare facilities, such as boilers, generators, and refrigeration
units. Please refer to the HERC
Air Permitting page for more information on requirements that may
apply to your facility.
Pursuant to Title I of the CAA, EPA has established national
ambient air quality standards (NAAQSs) to limit levels of “criteria pollutants,” including:
- carbon monoxide
- nitrogen dioxide
- particulate matter
- sulfur dioxide
Geographic areas that meet NAAQSs for a given pollutant are
designated as "attainment areas"; those that do not
meet NAAQSs are designated as "nonattainment areas". EPA
provides an on-line resource called the Green
Book that will allow you to determine the status of your area for each
Under Section 110 and other provisions of the CAA, each state
must develop a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to:
- identify sources of air pollution, and
- determine what reductions are required to meet federal
air quality standards
Tribes may, but are not required to, develop Tribal Implementation
Plans (TIP), which play the same role as SIPs, but apply within Indian country.
Revised NAAQSs for particulates and ozone became effective
in 2004. This may significantly affect facilities that are large sources
of particulates (soot) and of volatile organic compounds or nitrogen oxides
(which contribute to ozone formation), particularly those in nonattainment
Title I also authorizes EPA to establish New Source Performance
Standards (NSPS). These are nationally uniform emission standards for
new and modified stationary sources that fall within particular industrial
categories. The standards are based on the pollution control technology available
to that category of industrial source (see 40
CFR Part 60).
Additional information on NSPS requirements for certain specific
pieces of equipment can be found on HERC pages dealing with
Hazardous Air Pollutants
Also under Title I, EPA establishes and enforces
National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs). These
are nationally uniform standards oriented toward controlling materials that
appear on a specific list. Such materials are collectively known as hazardous
air pollutants (HAPs).
Section 112(c) of the CAA directs EPA to develop
a list of source categories that emit any of 188 HAPs, and to develop regulations
for these categories of sources. To date, EPA has listed 185 source categories,
and has developed a schedule for establishing emission standards. The emission
standards are being developed for both new and existing sources.
NESHAPs are based on so-called “maximum
achievable control technology” (MACT). The MACT for a particular source
category is defined as the control technology achieving the "maximum degree
of reduction" in the emission of the HAPs when cost and other factors
are taken into account. Other designations (such as "BACT",
or best available control technology, and "LAER" or lowest achievable
emissions reduction) are used to specify technologies satisfying other criteria,
like the maximum reduction without regard to cost. The distinctions can
get complicated. The important point here is that cost is factored into
MACT determinations. The regulations don't specify which technology to
use, but they do require that whatever technology is used must achieve at least
as much of an emissions reduction as the MACT can provide.
Additional information on NESHAPs for certain specific pieces
of equipment can be found on HERC pages dealing with
How does the CAA apply to
healthcare facility inspections?
For the most part, an air inspector will primarily be interested
in five areas of a hospital:
The inspector will also check compliance with any air
permits that were issued to your hospital by
EPA or by your state.
Sixteen percent of all the violations disclosed to EPA from
self-audits of healthcare facilities relate to the Clean Air Act, second only
to RCRA. Of these violations, almost half (47%) are of State Implementation
Plan requirements. The other half involve the repair and disposal of air conditioning
and refrigeration units. Common air violations being found at hospitals either
through inspections or self-audits include:
- Failure to use properly trained and accredited asbestos
- Failure to notify EPA of asbestos removal projects and
keep required documentation/recordkeeping.
- Failure to properly dispose of asbestos debris.
- Failure to close lids on parts washers when not in use.
- Failure to use certified CFC technicians.
- Failure to maintain CFC leak rate repair records for
large air conditioning and refrigeration units.
- Failure to include ETO sterilizer, spray paint booth,
and parts degreaser in air permit.