In a move widely applauded by the public health community, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a new rule today to strengthen clean air protections against fine particulate matter, or soot.
The rule tightens limits for soot by 20 percent, lowering emissions of one of the most dangerous air pollutants.
“The public health community applauds these long overdue stronger standards,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of APHA, in a statement. “Science clearly links exposure to fine particulate matter to premature death, increased hospitalization and worsening of a range of health conditions, including heart attack, stroke and asthma.”
“This rule protects communities across the country from dirty, harmful air,” Benjamin said. “It’s a public health victory for everyone, but particularly for children, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions who are at increased risk.”
The new rule lowers the limit of current annual exposure standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meter down to a standard of 12. EPA did not lower the 24-hour fine particle standard or the coarse particle standard, known as PM 10, despite evidence that both standards need strengthening.
In announcing the rule, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, “These standards are fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act. We will save lives and reduce the burden of illness in our communities, and families across the country will benefit from the simple fact of being able to breathe cleaner air.”
While some have raised concern that communities will be challenged to meet the stricter limits, EPA said that by 2020, 99 percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet the revised health standard without any additional actions.
“Initiatives that will reduce particle pollution from diesel trucks, power plants and other sources are already on the books and will help many areas of the country meet this new health standard,” said Norman Edelman, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, in a news release. “But, the promise of the Clean Air Act, clean, healthy air for all, still needs to be kept. This new standard moves us closer to that goal.”