American Lung Association Applauds New Soot Standards

(December 14, 2012)

The American Lung Association of the Southwest, which includes the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah, applauds the Obama Administration’s decision to set a much stronger national air quality standard on particulate matter (soot), one of the nation’s most lethal air pollutants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set limits on airborne microscopic particles, following the findings by independent scientists that this pollutant causes premature death at levels well below what is currently considered safe.

The EPA tightened the limit, called the national ambient air quality standards, for the annual average level of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) to 12 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) from the outdated standard set in 1997 of 15 µg/m3.  EPA made no changes to the 24-hour fine particle standard or the coarse particle standard (PM 10) despite evidence that both standards need strengthening.

 “We know clearly that particle pollution is harmful at levels well below those previously deemed to be safe. Particle pollution causes premature deaths and illness, threatening the millions of Americans who breathe high levels of it,” explained Norman H. Edelman, MD, Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association.  “By setting a more protective standard, the EPA is stating that we as a nation must protect the health of the public by cleaning up even more of this lethal pollutant.  Reducing particle pollution will prevent heart attacks and asthma attacks, and will keep children out of the emergency room and hospitals.  It will save lives.”

Particulate matter, also known as particle pollution or soot, is a mixture of liquid droplets and solid particles made of toxic chemicals, metals and smoke.  These particles are small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs and even into the bloodstream, leading to tens of thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks and asthma attacks every year.  Particles come from wide-ranging sources, including coal-fired power plants, industrial boilers, diesel vehicles and woodstoves.  

The American Lung Association’s free State of the Air® smartphone app tracks current air quality conditions and next-day air quality forecasts for particle pollution and other widespread air pollutants.  This tool, which is available for Apple and Android, can be a valuable resource for people living with lung disease like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), people with heart disease or diabetes, as well as older adults and children.