(HealthDay News) — The air in American cities is getting safer to breathe, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported Thursday.

Since 1990, there has been a nearly 60% reduction in mercury from human sources such as coal-fired plants, a 66% decline in benzene, and an 84% fall in lead, which harms brain development in children. About 3 million tons per year of pollutants such as particulate matter and sulfur dioxide have also been reduced from cars and trucks, the EPA said.

There has been a reduction of about 1.5 million tons per year of hazardous air pollutants such as arsenic, benzene, lead, and nickel from stationary sources, and another reduction of 1.5 million tons per year of these pollutants from mobile sources, according to the agency. These pollutants are known or suspected to cause cancer and can harm people’s immune, respiratory, neurological, reproductive, and developmental systems, the EPA said.

The agency’s report is the final of two required under the Clean Air Act to inform Congress of progress in reducing public health risks from urban air pollution.

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