EPA’s Important Initiative to Protect People from Soot Pollution Should be Further Strengthened to Save Lives

January 6, 2023
Sharyn Stein, 202-905-5718, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – January 6, 2022) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking an important step toward strengthening our nation’s health-based standards for particle or “soot” pollution – an air pollutant that harms the hearts and lungs of millions of people and is associated with thousands of deaths annually. However, EPA should strengthen the level of protection in the final standards to reflect the health science and the recommendations of EPA’s independent science advisors. There are well-established solutions to address the dangerous particle pollution that originates from power plant smokestacks, tailpipes, and industrial sources. Solutions such as clean energy and clean vehicles save families money and are creating high quality jobs with the historic U.S. investments under the Inflation Reduction Act.   

“EPA is taking an important step forward to address deadly soot pollution, and we urge EPA to issue more protective final standards so that all people can breathe easier,” said EDF General Counsel Vickie Patton. “Addressing soot pollution consistent with the health science is one of the most important clean air actions our nation can take to ensure healthier, longer lives for millions of people in all parts of the country.”

EPA’s proposal to strengthen the national standard for particle pollution reflects the unanimous finding of the expert Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee “that the current level of the annual standard is not sufficiently protective of public health and should be lowered.” EPA’s proposal to tighten the standard from 12 micrograms per cubic meter to a level between 9 and 10 micrograms per cubic meter is important progress but should be further strengthened as it does not adequately reflect the majority findings of EPA’s science advisors “that an annual average in the range of 8-10 [micrograms per cubic meter] would be appropriate” or that “substantial epidemiologic evidence from both morbidity and mortality studies” show that daily (24-hour standard) also “is not adequately protective” and warrants strengthening.

EDF commissioned a report by Industrial Economics finding that an annual standard of 8 micrograms per cubic meter prevents more than four times as many premature deaths as a standard of 10 micrograms per cubic meter and makes vital progress towards reducing the heavy health burdens on communities that have been afflicted by this pollution for far too long.

Under our nation’s clean air laws, EPA is required to review the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particle pollution every five years and consider new scientific evidence related to the health impacts from the pollution. However, in 2020 the prior administration chose to retain the current, inadequate particle pollution standard of 12 micrograms per cubic meter, disregarding the extensive evidence showing serious health impacts from pollution exposures below that level.

EPA will hold a 60-day public comment period on today’s proposal and will host virtual public hearings. The standards are expected to be finalized by August.

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