Lung Association Responds to Proposed Updates to National Particle Pollution Standards: EPA’s Proposal Falls Far Short and Must Be Strengthened

In response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed updates to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Fine Particulate Matter, Harold Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association, issued the following statement:

“Today’s proposal from EPA to update the national annual limits on particulate matter pollution misses the mark and is inadequate to protect public health from this deadly pollutant.

“Particle pollution kills. It can cause breathing problems, asthma attacks and a host of other harms, from cardiovascular problems to lung cancer to fetal harm. Children, seniors, people with lung or heart disease and people who work outdoors are disproportionately at risk, as are people in low-income communities and many communities of color who are exposed to higher levels.

“The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards for criteria air pollutants. The NAAQS for particulate matter, a particularly dangerous criteria pollutant, is currently at levels that do not protect health. Current science shows that stronger limits are urgently needed at the levels of 8 µg/m3 for the annual standard and 25 µg/m3 for the 24-hour standard to protect vulnerable populations. 

“We are deeply disappointed that EPA’s proposal today did not include a standard of 8 µg/m3 in the proposed range of options for the annual standard. The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee recommended a range of standards that included an annual level as protective as 8 µg/m3 and a 24-hour range as protective as 25 µg/m3. EPA did not follow these expert recommendations.

“Rather than actually proposing the science-based, most protective 8 µg/m3 annual level or the 25 µg/m3 24-hour level, EPA is only inviting comments on those protective levels. This falls far short of what is needed to meet the White House’s stated goals of furthering public health and environmental justice. The Clean Air Act requires standards that are requisite to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. EPA must follow the law and strengthen both the annual and 24-hour standard to protect public health. 

“Health organizations and experts are united in their ask of EPA to finalize the national standards for particle pollution at 8 µg/m3 for the annual standard and 25 µg/m3 for the 24-hour standard. More protective standards are necessary to drive cleanup nationwide in communities that currently experience unhealthy levels of deadly particle pollution. This is vitally important in communities with a polluting source, like a power plant or port, located nearby. Inadequate standards leave too many communities behind. Strong particulate matter standards are needed to protect public health and further environmental justice. 

“A stronger 24-hour standard is also important to better inform the public when air pollution levels are unhealthy. The NAAQS are the basis for EPA’s air quality index (AQI), which people nationwide use to plan their activities based on the air quality forecast that day. Right now, EPA’s outdated 24-hour standard means that people may be told that the air outside is safe to breathe on a day when it is not. EPA’s failure to propose stronger 24-hour standards is a missed opportunity for public health. We note that EPA is proposing updates to air monitoring and the AQI. We will provide detailed comments in support of improving public understanding of air pollution threats in their communities. 

“We will file detailed technical comments and provide testimony at the public hearing to urge EPA to strengthen the final standards and to promptly finalize this proposal no later than August 2023.  We encourage the public to do the same by taking action today at Lung.org/stronger-standards.
For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
312-940-7001
[email protected]

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