American Lung Association in California Urges US EPA for Stronger Limits for Soot Pollution

Lung Association experts and volunteers testify today at US EPA hearing in Sacramento for tighter standards to protect public health and save lives

Sacramento, CA (July 19, 2012)

The American Lung Association in California testifies today at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing to urge stronger limits on deadly airborne particle pollution (known as “soot” or PM2.5). The current standards fail to protect the health of millions of Americans, causing thousands of asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, lung cancers, and premature deaths every year. Part of the effort to demonstrate support includes the unveiling of the American Lung Association’s Red Carriage in Sacramento including placement of a full page advertisement in the Sacramento Bee.

Among those scheduled to testify before the EPA panel today are Sacramento resident Robert Linkul, Vallejo fifth-grader Jaxin Woodward, and Ventura resident Lydia Rojas, all with deep personal connections to the fight for cleaner air. Despite never having smoked in his life, Mr. Linkul contracted a rare form of cancer at the age of 28 that required the removal of the lower lobe of his left lung. Ms. Woodward is an avid long-distance runner managing her asthma as she prepares for the 2012 Junior Olympic Games later this month. Ms. Rojas tragically lost her 15-year-old daughter Stephanie to an asthma attack in 2006. Each of these advocates knows the challenges of life with lung disease and has come to Sacramento to call for stronger air quality standards.

“Tighter standards for particle pollution will save thousands of lives not only in California, but also nationwide,” said Jane Warner, President and CEO, American Lung Association in California. “People, especially children, with chronic lung disease like asthma and those with cardiovascular disease suffer the most from particle pollution. In California, 90 percent of us live in areas with unhealthy air, and every year 9,200 Californians die prematurely due to poor air quality. The EPA must set stronger standards to protect public health.”

Today’s hearing is part of the EPA process to gather input on new proposed health standards for soot.  The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review the standards every five years to incorporate the most current science to determine whether the standards sufficiently protect public health.  On June 15, 2012, EPA announced a proposal to set a more protective annual limit of particle pollution of 12-13 μg/m3 and to retain the daily standard of 35 μg/m3.  The current annual standards were set in 1997, and daily particle pollution limits were last set in 2006. 

The Lung Association urges a stronger annual standard of 11 micrograms per cubic meter and a daily standard of 25 micrograms per cubic meter. According to the Lung Association’s 2012 State of the Air report, six of the nation’s top ten most-polluted cities by daily (short-term) particle pollution are in California, including Bakersfield, Fresno, and Los Angeles.

Particle pollution is comprised of soot, metals, acid, dirt, pollen, and other elements that can be inhaled and become lodged deeply in one’s lungs. Released by sources such as diesel vehicles and equipment, factories, and wood burning stoves, the particles are small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs and into the bloodstream, making soot one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution.

A report released last year by the American Lung Association, Clean Air Task Force, and Earthjustice titled Sick of Soot: How the EPA Can Save Lives By Cleaning Up Fine Particle Pollution found that an annual standard of 11 micrograms per cubic meter and a daily standard of 25 micrograms per cubic meter could spare the public every year from as many as:

  • 35,700 premature deaths
  • 2,350 heart attacks
  • 23,290 visits to the hospital and emergency room
  • 29,800 cases of acute bronchitis
  • 1.4 million cases of aggravated asthma, and
  • 2.7 million days of missed work or school due to ailments caused by air pollution

Today’s hearing is one of two the EPA is holding across the country. The agency must complete its review process by issuing new standards for particle pollution on December 14, 2012.