EPA finalizes updates to National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the final rule "will prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths and 800,000 cases of asthma symptoms per year."

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The Environmental Protection Agency set new limits on fine particulate matter referred to as PM2.5, or soot pollution. The new rule, which updates the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), lowers annual exposure of allowable soot limits by 25 percent.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the final rule “will prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths and 800,000 cases of asthma symptoms per year.”

“Air pollution used to be the price we had to pay to heat our homes, commute or produce goods by burning coal, oil and gas,” Lisa Frank, executive director of Environment America Research & Policy Center’s Washington Office, said. “Thankfully, in the rapidly accelerating renewable energy era, that’s no longer the case. These soot standards will save lives, clear our skies and alleviate the burden of asthma and other illnesses. That’s something all Americans should celebrate.”

And Americans were in support of stronger soot standards with more than 500,000 submitted comments to the EPA. Soot pollution is the largest human-caused pollution from fossil fuels including coal, gas and oil, a press release from Environment America stated.

“For too many Americans, the very air we breathe can make us sick. This is a problem we can choose to solve,” Andre Delattre, the senior vice president and chief operating officer for program for U.S. PIRG Education Fund, said. “This announcement is a welcome step toward a healthier future. We thank President Biden and the EPA for heeding the science and public calls for cleaner air and finalizing strong limits on soot.”

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), soot, causes severe harm to human health, including asthma, heart disease, and even premature death. These scientists concluded that existing PM2.5 standards were not strong enough to protect public health and applauded the EPA for strengthening soot pollution standards, but said further action is required.

“EPA has a responsibility to not just set this standard, but to monitor air quality in impacted communities and enforce the law against polluters who violate the standard,” Chitra Kumar, managing director of the Climate & Energy Program at UCS, said. “EPA must remain committed to following the science and its stated commitments to protecting at-risk communities by setting and enforcing standards that ensure people all across the country can breathe truly clean and safe air.”

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