The Complexities of Air Pollution Regulation: The need for an intergrated research and regulatory perspective

The Clean Air Act mandates the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to periodically reassess existing and new science that underlie the regulation of major ambient pollutants -- particulate matter (PM) and tropospheric ozone being most notable. While toxic effects have been ascribed individually to these and other pollutants in the air, it is clear that mixtures of these contaminants have the potential to interact and thereby influence their overall toxic outcomes. It follows that a more comprehensive assessment of the potential health effects of the air pollution complex might better protect human health; however, traditional regulatory drivers and funding constraints have impeded progress to such a goal. Despite difficulties in empirically conducting studies of complex mixtures of air pollutants and acquiring relevant exposure data, there remains a need to develop integrated, interdisciplinary research and analytical strategies to provide more comprehensive (and relevant) assessments of associated health outcomes and risks. The research and assessment communities are endeavoring to dissect this complexity using varied approaches.