WASHINGTON – The Biden-Harris Administration on Wednesday finalized a significantly tougher air quality standard that will better protect American families, workers and communities from the dangerous and costly health effects of fine particle pollution, also known as like soot By strengthening the annual national health-based ambient air quality standard for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from a level of 12 micrograms per cubic meter to 9 micrograms per cubic meter, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s updated standard will save lives: preventing up to 4,500 premature deaths and 290,000 lost work days, resulting in up to $46 billion in net health benefits in 2032. For every dollar spent on this action, there could be up to $77 in human health benefits in 2032.
Today’s action is based on the best available science, as required by the Clean Air Act, and establishes a level of air quality that EPA will help states and tribal nations achieve in the coming years, including through of EPA supplemental standards to reduce pollution from power plants. vehicles and industrial facilities, along with historic investments under President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act. These actions strengthen the U.S. economy by investing billions of dollars and creating good-paying jobs during the transition to cleaner technologies. This strategy will make Americans healthier and more productive, while underpinning a resurgence of American manufacturing. Since 2000, P.M.2.5 Concentrations in outdoor air have decreased by 42%, while the US Gross Domestic Product has increased by 52% during that time.
“This final air quality rule will save lives and make everyone healthier, especially in America’s most vulnerable and overburdened communities,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Cleaner air means our children will have a better future and people will be able to live more productive and active lives, improving our ability to grow and develop as a nation. “EPA looks forward to continuing our decades of success working with states, counties, tribes, and industry to ensure this critical health standard is effectively implemented to improve the long-term health and productivity of our nation.”
In addition to strengthening the first annual PM2.5 standard, EPA is modifying the PM2.5 Monitor network design criteria to include a factor that takes into account proximity to populations at highest risk for PM.2.5-Health effects related to sources of air pollution. This will promote environmental justice by ensuring localized data is collected in overburdened areas to inform future NAAQS reviews.
Particle pollution is of great concern to those with heart or lung disease and other vulnerable communities, including children, older adults, and people with health conditions such as asthma, as well as already overburdened communities, including many communities of color and low-income communities around the world. the United States. Strengthening the Clean Air Act standard for fine particle pollution improves air quality nationwide for everyone, ensuring that communities burdened by pollution are not left behind.
“The Biden administration is taking life-saving steps to protect people and curb deadly pollution,” said Abigail Dillen, president of Earthjustice. “The science is very clear. Soot, also known as fine particle pollution, is deadly. It is causing heart disease, our asthma epidemic, and other serious illnesses. The people who suffer the most are children and older Americans living in low-income communities of color. “This federal rule will ensure that states respond to the current public health and environmental justice crisis, saving thousands of lives and preventing 800,000 cases of asthma symptoms each year.”
“Administrator Regan and President Biden deserve thanks for taking this vital step to curb soot pollution, a dangerous and even deadly pollutant that has taken an enormous toll on underrepresented and overburdened communities less equipped to address its serious impacts on health,” said Dr. Doris. Browne, 118th president of the National Medical Association. “This new standard of 9 micrograms per cubic meter will save lives according to scientific evidence. That’s the bottom line. And as a physician, clean air advocate, and former president of the National Medical Association representing physicians, our ultimate goal is health equity.”
“President Biden and EPA Administrator Regan’s new soot pollution limits will save thousands of lives and dramatically reduce air pollution for people across the country, especially those disproportionately affected by particle pollution.” deadly,” said Margie Alt, director of the Climate Action Campaign. “This rule makes significant progress toward protecting our health and meeting the administration’s environmental justice commitments.”
“Particle pollution is deadly. In the United States alone, it takes thousands of lives and exacts a staggering toll. Children’s bodies are especially vulnerable to the harm of soot pollution,” said Dominique Browning, director and co-founder of Moms Clean Air Force. “Moms Clean Air Force commends EPA for taking an important step forward by strengthening the annual standard for particle pollution, also known as soot, to 9 micrograms per cubic meter from its current level of 12. The new national health standard EPA’s report for particulate pollution is the first improvement in more than a decade. Soot is associated with increased infant mortality, hospital admissions for heart and lung disease, cancer, and increased severity of asthma. “EPA’s final protection is an important step toward cleaner, healthier air for all children.”
“I applaud U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Regan for today’s action to reduce fine particle pollution and protect communities. “These standards will build on the important progress already made in improving air quality throughout New York and will help prevent the many serious health effects affecting our most at-risk populations,” said Department Commissioner Basil Seggos. of Environmental Conservation of the State of New York. “Last year, historic plumes from wildfires across Canada raised New Yorkers’ awareness of how fine particle pollution from natural and man-made sources impacts the air we breathe, particularly for the most vulnerable among us.”
In June 2021, EPA announced that it would reconsider its December 2020 decision to retain the 2012 standards because available scientific evidence and technical information indicated that the standards may not be adequate to protect public health and welfare. EPA considered available scientific and technical information, as well as recommendations from the independent advisors who make up the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and CASAC’s PM expert panel in making the decision on whether to strengthen PM standards.
Based on scientific evidence, technical information, CASAC recommendations, and public comments on the proposed 2023 standards, EPA has established two primary standards for PM.2.5, which work together to protect public health: the annual standard, which the EPA has revised, and a 24-hour standard, which the agency maintained. EPA also maintained the current 24-hour primary standard for PM.10, which provides protection against coarse particles. EPA is also not changing the secondary (welfare-based) standards for fine and coarse particles at this time.
A large and growing body of science links particulate pollution to a variety of serious and sometimes fatal diseases. Many studies show that these fine microscopic particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and that long- and short-term exposure can lead to asthma attacks, missed days of school or work, heart attacks, costly emergency room visits, and premature death.
Because of the efforts that states, tribes, industry, communities, and the EPA have already made to reduce hazardous pollution in communities across the country, 99% of U.S. counties are projected to come into compliance with the more protective standard in 2032, likely the first year states would have to comply with the revised standard. That’s even before taking into account additional actions on the horizon to implement investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the Inflation Reduction Act and update source-specific emission standards.
The EPA is also revising the Air Quality Index to improve public communications about the health risks of PM.2.5 exhibitions.
Some particles are emitted directly from combustion sources, construction sites, industrial processes and older diesel engines, while other particles form in the atmosphere in complex chemical reactions with other pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that are released. emitted in power plants, gasoline and diesel engines, and certain industrial processes. Particle pollution from industrial processes and other sources is controllable, with cost-effective and readily available technologies to manage emissions, and EPA will leverage decades of experience to provide flexible options to states and tribes throughout the implementation process.
EPA carefully considered extensive public input when determining the final standards. The agency held a virtual public hearing and received about 700,000 written comments before finalizing the updated air quality standards today.
See more information about today’s final standards in Final Reconsideration of National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulates.
Source: “EPA Finalizes Tougher Standards for Harmful Soot Pollution, Significantly Increasing Health and Clean Air Protection for Families, Workers, and Communities,” Environmental Protection Agency news release dated 7 February 2024.
Featured image from the corresponding connected home page: US EPA