Stricter national soot standards will save lives and protect public health

June 15, 2012
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396,

(Washington, D.C. – June 15, 2012) Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is welcoming today’s announcement of proposed new standards to reduce a lethal form of air pollution.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its long overdue proposal to strengthen America’s health protections for particulate pollution, commonly known as soot – a dangerous air pollutant associated with thousands of deaths each year.
“Particulate pollution is deadly, and it puts the health of our families and communities at high risk,” said Elena Craft, Health Scientist for EDF. “Reducing it will prevent tens of thousands of deaths each year and ensure healthier, longer lives for millions of Americans.”
Particle pollution, or soot, is one of the most deadly types of airborne contaminants. It’s made up of microscopic bits of matter that can penetrate people’s lungs and get into their bloodstreams, and it causes heart attacks, strokes, asthma attacks, acute bronchitis and – in some cases – death.
Particulate pollution also has serious environmental impacts, including impairing visibility at treasured national parks like the Great Smoky Mountains. Sources of particulate pollution include diesel engines and equipment and coal-fired power plants.
EPA’s proposal would strengthen the annual health standard for harmful fine particle pollution to a level within a range of 13 micrograms per cubic meter to 12 micrograms per cubic meter. The current annual standard is 15 micrograms per cubic meter.
Today’s proposal is long overdue in taking corrective action to protect human health from deficiencies identified several years ago by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 
In 2006, EPA rejected the recommendations of its own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee on the level of protection necessary to protect Americans from particulate pollution in accordance with science and the law. The resulting standards were successfully challenged in the federal court of appeals for the D.C. Circuit by the American Lung Association, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, and the National Parks Conservation Association.  The court instructed EPA to take corrective action in light of the extensive scientific evidence of human health harms.   
The standards will be finalized no later than December 14th of this year, after a public comment period.

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