EPA Science Advisory Committee Draft Letter Recommends EPA Strengthen Particulate Pollution Standard

February 8, 2022
Sharyn Stein, 202-905-5718, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – February 8, 2022) EPA’s scientific advisors have told the agency that our nation’s current standard for particulate pollution is inadequate to protect public health and must be strengthened.

EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) put their findings into a draft letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan. They publicly released the draft letter on Friday.

“CASAC’s draft letter provides additional, strong support for EPA’s decision to revisit our national health-based standards for particulate pollution,” said EDF analyst Taylor Bacon. “Strengthening our particulate pollution standards will protect the health of millions of Americans, especially those who are now facing disproportionate harm from this dangerous pollution.”

CASAC’s draft letter is in response to EPA’s Science and Policy Assessments supporting the reconsideration of our national standard for particulate pollution. Particulate pollution is made up of small toxic airborne particles like dust and soot, as well as traces of dangerous liquids – or aerosols. The tiny particles penetrate deep into people’s lungs and cause multiple serious health problems, emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and tens of thousands of early deaths each year. Scientific evidence links particulate pollution to lung disease, heart attacks, strokes, asthma and cancer.

Millions of Americans are living with unhealthy air and suffering from the health impacts if particulate pollution. These harms are more severe in communities of color. A 2018 study by EPA scientists published in the American Journal of Public Health found that “Non-White populations overall experienced 1.28 times the burden of the general population, and Black populations, specifically, experienced the greatest degree of disparity in the siting of PM emitting facilities at national, state, and county levels, burdened with 1.54 times the PM emissions faced by the general population.”

EPA is now in the process of considering whether to strengthen our national standards for particulate pollution and is expected to issue a new proposed standard this summer. As part of that process, CASAC has been reviewing reports about the science and policy considerations underlying our national particulate pollution standard.

In its draft letter, CASAC reached the consensus that our current annual standard for particulate pollution does not adequately protect public health and must be strengthened. A majority of CASAC members affirmed that an annual standard of 8 to 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air is appropriate based on the epidemiological evidence, especially when emphasis is placed on protecting vulnerable populations and communities. CASAC also encouraged EPA to consider strengthening the 24-hour standard to ensure it delivers important protections for short-term exposures, particularly in vulnerable population and communities.

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