Late last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new air quality standards for fine particulate matter, or soot. This decision represents a meaningful victory for the thousands of Care2 members and concerned Americans who are tired of breathing poisoned air just so the fossil fuel industry can enjoy billions in profits.
The updated standards set the limit for safe concentrations of harmful fine particle pollution (PM2.5), including soot, in the air at an annual level of 12 micrograms (one-millionth of a gram) per cubic meter, and a daily level of 35 micrograms per cubic meter.
Studies have shown that the number of hospitalizations for asthma increases when levels of particulate matter in the air rise. Coal-fired power plants, factories and diesel vehicles are major sources of particulate pollution. According to the NRDC, around 81 million people live in areas that fail to meet national air quality standards for particulate.
By 2030, it is expected that all standards that cut PM2.5 from diesel vehicles and equipment alone will prevent up to 40,000 premature deaths, 32,000 hospital admissions and 4.7 million days of work lost due to illness. And, further proving that pro-environmental regulations also make good economic sense, the EPA estimates health benefits of the revised standard to range from $4 billion to over $9 billion per year.
The announcement of new standards has no effect on the existing daily standard for fine particles or the existing daily standard for coarse particles (PM10), which includes dust from farms and other sources, both of which remain unchanged.
According to a press release, the EPA carefully considered extensive public input as it determined the appropriate final standard to protect public health. The agency held two public hearings and received more than 230,000 written comments before finalizing today’s updated air quality standards. Care2 members helped contribute to this grassroots effort, with over 24,000 thousand of us signing the Sierra Club’s “Stand Up for Strong Soot Protections” petition, and almost 11,ooo participating in the last minute “Deadline for Clean Air” action.
“The Sierra Club applauds the Environmental Protection Agency for finalizing these crucial, life-saving protections,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “These updated limits will prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths every year and continue the Clean Air Act’s track record of cleaning up our nation’s air, avoiding pollution-related health costs, and protecting our children and families.”
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