Environmental Protection

New Clean Air Standards to Reduce Soot Pollution

The EPA has updated its national air quality standards in regards to harmful fine particle pollution, which now includes regulations on soot pollution.

The EPA has finalized an update to the national air quality standards for harmful fine particle pollution (PM2.5), which now includes soot, setting the annual health standard at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. 99 percent of all U.S. counties are expected to meet these revised health standards without any additional actions by 2020.

“These standards are fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act. We will save lives and reduce the burden of illness in our communities, and families across the country will benefit from the simple fact of being able to breathe cleaner air,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

Fine particle pollution is known to penetrate deep into the lungs, and is linked to serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks, strokes, and acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma in children. A federal court ruling required EPA to update the standard based on the best available science.

According to the new air standards, it is expected that fewer than 10 counties in the U.S. will need to take local actions in order to reduce fine particle pollution and meet the new standard by 2020, as required by the Clean Air Act. The remaining counties will need to rely on air quality improvements from federal rules already on the books to meet this new standard.

The standard, which was first proposed in June, is consistent with the advice from the agency’s independent science advisors and based on extensive scientific evidence that includes thousands of studies. With the new standards, it is predicted 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 by 2030.

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