U.S. sulfur dioxide emissions 1970-2017

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions in the United States have decreased significantly over the last decades. SO2 emissions have fallen to 2.82 million tons in 2017, in comparison to 31.22 million tons in 1970. This reduction in SO2 is largely due to the implementation of the Acid Rain Program under the Clean Air Act through a cap and trade program for fossil-fuel powered plants.

What is sulfur dioxide and how does it impact health and the environment?

SO2 is largely used as an indicator for gaseous sulfur oxides (SOx) as these gases are found in low concentrations in the atmosphere. SO2 is mostly emitted into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels but can also be derived through some industrial processes like extracting metal from ore, operating vehicles and heavy equipment that burn high-sulfur content fuels, and through some natural sources like volcanoes. Exposure to SO2 can negatively impact the respiratory system in humans. High SO2 concentrations can also lead to the formation of other sulfur oxides which contribute to particulate matter pollution. Environmentally, SO2 can contribute to acid rain and can also damage the growth of plants.
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Volume of sulfur dioxide emissions in the U.S. from 1970 to 2017
(in 1,000 tons)
Volume of emissions in thousand tons
20172,815
20162,960
20153,685
20144,674
20134,873
20125,079
20116,479
20107,732
20099,089
200810,324
200711,699
200613,123
200514,546
200016,347
199518,619
199023,077
198523,307
198025,926
197528,044
197031,218
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