EPA Must Act To Address Particulate Pollution Health Threat

December 14, 2004

(14 December 2004 —Washington)  Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an analysis of national pollution trends claiming that levels of particulate pollution have recently gone down in some parts of the country.  However, a compelling body of scientific analysis shows serious health effects from particulate pollution in communities nationwide, highlighting the need for swift action to protect human health from the problem. 

“Releasing the report at the same time they are delaying action on power plant standards is like telling a patient their cancer is beginning to shrink and then turning around and diluting their chemotherapy,” said Dr. John Balbus, a medical doctor and head of the Environmental Defense Health Program.  “To protect the millions at risk from unhealthy particulate pollution levels, EPA must cut harmful pollution from power plant smokestacks.  Unfortunately, EPA is instead delaying power plant pollution controls and thereby delaying critical protections for children, the elderly and the millions of Americans with asthma that are especially at risk from particulate pollution.”

While today’s report finds that reductions in particulate pollution have been made in some areas, an EPA assessment released earlier this summer found that nearly 100 million people still live in communities where particulate pollution levels are above the federal health standard.  An October EPA analysis also shows that particulate pollution is associated with premature death, heart attacks, lung cancer and respiratory damage.  All of these EPA reports demonstrate that tough federal standards are urgently needed to cut pollution from power plant smokestacks, a key source of harmful particulate pollution.

EPA’s national emissions inventory 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.