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SMOG IS LOSING ITS GRIP ON U.S. CITIES, EPA SAYS

SHARE SMOG IS LOSING ITS GRIP ON U.S. CITIES, EPA SAYS

Urban air pollution is loosening its grip, the Environmental Protection Agency says. But 86 million people still breath unhealthy air in cities across the country.

The EPA released statistics Monday that said 41 cities and counties found to have violated federal smog standards last year now comply. No Utah cities were on the list.While the improvement may have been largely because of a cooler summer in 1991, the last year of the three-year monitoring period, it also reflected a gradual trend toward overall improving air quality. Officials said they expected the trend to continue as new clean-air requirements kick in over the decade.

"The 1991 statistics show that tens of millions of our citizens no longer have to breathe unhealthy air," said EPA Administrator William Reilly.

The improved air quality allowed 41 urban areas for the first time to comply with federal smog standards. Thirteen more for the first time met federal health standards for carbon monoxide. Both pollutants are widely associated with automobile use.

These areas are home to more than 30 million people, said William Rosenberg, the EPA's assistant administrator for air programs.

"Much remains to be done in cleaning up our nation's air," Rosenberg told a news conference. But he said he expects even better air quality in the coming years because of new federal requirements on industrial pollution and automobile emissions.

He said that while cooler weather was a factor in the air quality improvements, pollution controls on automobiles and cleaner gasoline also helped.

Overall, the EPA said, carbon monoxide levels dropped about 5 percent from 1990 to 1991.