EPA Finds Particulate Pollution Major Threat To Human Health

October 29, 2004

(29 October 2004 — Boulder, CO)  Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a comprehensive analysis of recent scientific studies that shows particulate pollution is associated with premature death, heart attacks, lung cancer and respiratory damage.  The EPA analysis is required under provisions of the Clean Air Act directing the Agency to periodically review the adequacy of the nation’s health-based limits on air pollution in light of recent scientific research.  A lawsuit by the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense and others put EPA on a court-ordered schedule to complete the updated analysis by October 29, 2004. 

“Air pollution is causing intolerable levels of illness that especially endanger children and the elderly.  EPA’s best scientific analysis shines a bright light on the need for swift, effective federal action to clean up the particulate-forming pollution from power plant smokestacks and motor vehicle tailpipes,” said Environmental Defense senior scientist Dr. Jana Milford.  

“EPA’s newest research clearly shows that particulate pollution from power plants and diesel engines on our highways is associated with a greater array of health problems and at lower levels of exposure,” said Dr. John Balbus, a physician and head of the Environmental Defense health program.

EPA’s analysis indicates children, the elderly and people with pre-existing heart and respiratory diseases are particularly susceptible to harmful health effects from particulate pollution exposure.  Recent research also identifies heightened concerns about the adverse effects of particulate pollution on young children and infants.   The new science also suggests that particulate pollution can shorten life spans significantly - not by just a few days but rather by a year or more. 
EPA national emissions inventory data indicates the country’s fleet of power plants discharge 68% of all sulfur dioxide and 22% of all oxides of nitrogen released nationwide.  Both of these contaminants transform in the atmosphere into harmful particulate pollution.  EPA’s own studies show that tighter controls on power plants are a highly cost-effective way to reduce power plant pollution.