EPA Proposes Stronger Air Quality Standards for Sulfur Dioxide

The EPA is taking comments on a proposal to establish a one-hour SO2 standard and revoke the old 24-hour and annual standards. The agency wants to limit SO2 exposure to between 50 and 100 ppb.

Exposure to SO2 can aggravate asthma, cause respiratory difficulties, and result in emergency room visits and hospitalization. People with asthma, children, and the elderly are especially vulnerable to SO2's effects.

"Short-term exposures to peak SO2 levels can have significant health effects – especially for children and the elderly – and leave our families and taxpayers saddled with high health care costs," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "We're strengthening clean air standards, stepping up monitoring and reporting in communities most in need, and providing the American people with protections they rightly deserve."

EPA also is proposing changes to monitoring and reporting requirements for SO2. Monitors would be placed in areas with high SO2 emission levels as well as in urban areas. The proposal also would change the Air Quality Index to reflect the revised SO2 standards.

The proposal addresses only the SO2 primary standards, which are designed to protect public health. EPA will address the secondary standard – designed to protect the public welfare, including the environment – as part of a separate proposal in 2011.

More information about the proposal, go to www.epa.gov/air/sulfurdioxide.

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