The EPA is tightening standards for deadly soot pollution

EPA scientists have estimated that exposure at current limits causes the early deaths of thousands of Americans annually from heart disease and lung cancer.

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is proposing tighter standards for a deadly air pollutant, saying reducing soot from tailpipes, smokestacks and wildfires could prevent thousands of premature deaths a year.

A proposal released Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency calls for maximum levels of 9 to 10 micrograms of particulate matter pollution per cubic meter of air, up from 12 micrograms set a decade ago under the Obama administration. The particulate pollution standard, better known as soot, was left unchanged by then-President Donald Trump overriding a scientific recommendation for a lower standard in his final days in office.

Environment and health groups, which have been pushing for a stricter standard, have been disappointed, saying the EPA proposal doesn’t go far enough to limit emissions of so-called “particulate matter,” the tiny bits of soot we invisibly inhale from exhaust pipes caused by wildfires , factory and power plant chimneys and other sources.

In a development that could lead to an even lower standard, the EPA said Friday it would also be accepting comments on a number of ideas submitted by a scientific advisory committee, including a proposal that would raise the maximum standard for carbon black to 8 micrograms would lower. A microgram is one millionth of a gram.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the proposal to tighten national air quality standards for particulate matter pollution would help prevent serious health problems, including asthma attacks, heart attacks and premature deaths, which disproportionately affect vulnerable populations. These populations include children, older adults, and those with heart and lung conditions, as well as low-income and minority communities in the United States.

“This government is committed to ensuring that all people, regardless of the color of their skin, the community they live in or the money in their pocket, have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and the opportunity to have a healthy live life,” Regan said at a news conference. “At the EPA, we work every day to create cleaner, healthier communities for all, and have done so for over 50 years.”

Harold Wimmer, the president of the American Lung Association, called the EPA’s proposal disappointing and said it was “inadequate to protect public health from this deadly pollutant.”

“Current science shows that stricter limits are badly needed … to protect vulnerable populations,” Wimmer said, urging the EPA to lower the standard to 8 micrograms or less.

Seth Johnson, an attorney for environmental group Earthjustice, called the EPA plan “a disappointment and an overall missed opportunity.” While it would strengthen some public health protections, “the EPA falls short of this administration’s ambitions to follow the science to protect public health and advance environmental justice,” Johnson said. He called on the EPA to “listen to communities, not industrial polluters, and strengthen that rule.” Overburdened communities have the right to breathe clean air.”

The US Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations have called for the current standards to be maintained.

“The United States has some of the best air quality in the world thanks to steady reductions in particulate matter emissions over the past decade,” said Chad Whiteman, vice president of environmental and regulatory affairs at the chamber’s Global Energy Institute.

The proposed rule could “choke manufacturing and industrial investment and exacerbate permitting challenges that continue to hamper the economy,” Whiteman said.

Mike Ireland, president of the Portland Cement Association, which represents US cement producers, added that the EPA’s proposed measure “represents another regulatory burden that will impede the cement industry’s ability to produce sustainable building materials to meet the country’s infrastructure needs.” cover.”

EPA scientists have estimated that exposure at current limits causes the early deaths of thousands of Americans annually from heart disease, lung cancer, and other health problems.

dr Doris Browne, president of the National Medical Association, the oldest and largest national organization representing African-American physicians, hailed the plan as “the bold action needed to protect public health across the country.”

Browne, who appeared at a press conference with Regan, said the proposal will likely have lasting benefits across the country, “but especially for the communities of color and low-income communities that are seeing increases in particulate matter pollution.” Smog, soot and other pollution near factories, power plants and other hazards are having “devastating public health effects,” she said.

The EPA proposal would require states, counties and tribal governments to meet a stricter air quality standard for particulate matter as small as 2.5 microns in diameter — far smaller than the diameter of a human hair. A micrometer, also known as a micrometer, is one millionth of a meter.

The standard wouldn’t force polluters to shut down, but the EPA and state regulators could use it as the basis for other rules targeting pollution from specific sources, such as diesel-powered trucks, refineries and power plants.

A 2022 report of the American Lung Association found that 63 million Americans live in counties that experience daily unhealthy spikes in soot pollution and 21 million live in counties that exceed annual soot pollution limits. Most of those counties were located in 11 western states, the report said. According to the report, people of color were 61% more likely than white people to live in a county with unhealthy air quality.

Fresno, California ousted Fairbanks, Alaska as the metro area with the worst short-term particulate pollution, the report found, while Bakersfield, California ranked the most polluted spot for year-round particulate pollution for the third straight year.

As of Dec. 31, five metro areas did not meet current standards, the EPA said. Four of these areas are in California, including the San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles. Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, which includes Pittsburgh, is also in violation of the regulations.

The EPA will accept comments on the proposed rule through mid-March and hold a virtual public hearing over several days. A final ruling is expected this summer.

https://www.kvue.com/article/news/nation-world/epa-moves-to-toughen-standards-deadly-soot-pollution/507-cd480aca-0e90-4247-9a69-415fce7f8f5f The EPA is tightening standards for deadly soot pollution

Laura Coffey

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