EPA, States, Tribes Work to Meet Air Quality Standard

In an important step to help improve the nation's air quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified areas across the country that are either meeting or not meeting national standards for fine particle pollution, or PM 2.5, according to an Aug. 19 press release.

In response to recommendations from state and tribal representatives, the agency sent letters outlining areas it is considering designating as attainment or nonattainment for the 24-hour fine particle standards. The agency has notified 25 states that they currently meet the fine particle standards, while the remaining states have at least one area under consideration for a nonattainment designation. A nonattainment area would include counties with monitors violating the 24-hour standard and nearby counties that contribute to that violation.

EPA will make formal designations of attainment and nonattainment areas in December 2008, after states and tribes comment on the proposals and if needed, provide additional information. Once designations take effect, they become a component of state, local, and tribal governments' efforts to reduce fine particle pollution to meet national standards. Designations also help let the public know whether their air quality is healthy.

Exposure to fine particle pollution can cause serious health problems, ranging from increased hospital admissions and doctor and emergency department visits for respiratory and cardiovascular disease, to nonfatal heart attacks, to premature death. In September 2006, EPA dramatically strengthened the fine particle standards to protect public health, tightening the 24-hour standard from 65 to 35 micrograms per cubic meter.

Recommendations from states and tribes along with EPA's responses are available at: www.epa.gov/pmdesignations/2006standards/index.htm.

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