American Lung Association in New York Applauds New Standard for Sulfur Dioxide

Statement of Scott T. Santarella, American Lung Association in New York President and CEO

(June 3, 2010)

The American Lung Association in New York is pleased that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has chosen to adopt a more protective  National Ambient Air Quality Standard for sulfur dioxide (SO2) that will ultimately protect New Yorkers from short-term exposure to this dangerous pollutant. This strengthening of the standard is vital to our mission of saving lives and promoting lung health.  The EPA estimates that, nationwide, the new standard will prevent 2,300 to 5,900 premature deaths and 54,000 asthma attacks annually.

There are more than 2.5 million New Yorkers who suffer from asthma, COPD and other lung diseases.  Since sulfur dioxide tightens the airways and makes it harder for people with asthma and lung disease to breathe, they will be especially helped by this change.  Exposure to SO2 can worsen coughing and wheezing, increase asthma attacks and send people to the emergency room.

The New York State Legislature can do its part to protect New Yorkers from SO2 by immediately passing legislation to reduce the sulfur content in home heating sold in the state.  Legislation to restrict the sulfur content in heating oil sold in New York has already passed the Assembly but has not been acted on by the Senate. Enactment of this legislation would drastically reduce SO2 exposure and improve air quality and lung health.

We look forward to working with the EPA to ensure that communities all across New York, especially those closest to major pollution sources, are adequately monitored so that residents can be aware of dangerous short-term SO2 levels.

The American Lung Association has long advocated for a more protective standard for SO2.  We're pleased that the EPA has set a stronger standard that will give New Yorkers improved air quality and positively impact public health.