Smokestack produced by burned coal

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed new standards Friday to combat harmful levels of fine particle pollution in the air. “We applaud EPA for taking a step in the right direction to reduce particulate matter exposure and safeguard public health,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin. Photo by Green Thinking for the Average Joe.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday proposed strengthening its national air quality standards for harmful fine particle pollution, including soot. The proposal follows a federal court ruling requiring the agency to update the standard based on the best available science, according to an EPA press release.

Overwhelming evidence now shows that there are negative health impacts at lower levels of pollution than previously thought, according to APHA in a news release. Fine particulate matter is one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution and can penetrate deep into the lungs.

“We applaud EPA for taking a step in the right direction to reduce particulate matter exposure and safeguard public health,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin.

EPA’s action follows earlier steps to lower dangerous pollution. The agency has estimated that the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 will prevent over 230,000 early deaths in 2020, and proposed a carbon pollution standard for new power plants in May to build “a cleaner, safer and more modern power sector.”

“The science is clear, and overwhelming evidence shows that particle pollution at levels currently labeled as officially ‘safe’ causes heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks,” said Albert Rizzo, chairman of the board of the American Lung Association.

EPA specified that 99 percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet the proposed standards without any additional action thanks to its earlier work.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review its standards for particle pollution every five years. The agency will issue the final standards by Dec. 14.