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EPA's New Particulate Matter Standards Fail To Protect Public Health

September 22, 2006

EPA's New Particulate Matter Standards
Fail To Protect Public Health

September 22, 2006

Ignoring the recommendations of its own expert science advisors, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on September 21st a final decision on new national air quality standards for particulate matter that will fail to protect public health. The EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, its Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee, and an unprecedented number of national medical and public health organizations all called upon the EPA to set much tougher standards. Instead, EPA chose to adopt standards which scientific studies have shown are not adequately sufficient to protect the health of Americans from particle pollution.

Fine particulate matter microscopic particles formed primarily from automobile and power plant emissions is a highly dangerous form of air pollution linked to a range of adverse health effects. Each year, tens of thousands of Americans die prematurely from breathing particle pollution, while thousands more suffer from heart attacks, strokes, asthma attacks and lung cancer.

In its finalized rule, EPA chose to retain the current annual fine particle standard at 15 micrograms per cubic meter and lower the daily standard to 35 micrograms per cubic meter. While EPA officials say these standards reflect the best available science on the health effects of particulate matter, more than 2,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies published since the EPA last updated the standards in 1997 provide overwhelming evidence that particle pollution poses serious health risks at levels well below those announced by EPA on Thursday. PSR, along with a number of other national public health organizations, advocated for lowering the annual standard to 12 microgram per cubic meter and tightening the daily standard to 25 micrograms per cubic meter. Had EPA adopted such standards, it is estimated that particle pollution-related deaths would be reduced by as much as 86 percent.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set ambient air quality standards that are stringent enough to protect healthy individuals and the most vulnerable populations - including children, the elderly, and people suffering from lung and cardiovascular diseases. By putting politics before science in finalizing these particulate matter standards, EPA has failed in its duty to protect the health of the American public.

Click here to read comments submitted to EPA
by PSR and other health organizations in April
 

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