Statement: Thousands of lives at stake in new soot proposal

Media Contacts
Lisa Frank

Executive Director, Environment America; Vice President and D.C. Director, The Public Interest Network

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new standards on Friday for the National Ambient Air Quality Standard regarding soot pollution, which kills an estimated 85,000-200,000 people every year in the United States. This fine particulate matter can cause heart and lung issues as well as brain damage, Parkinson’s disease, greater susceptibility to COVID-19, and a host of other health problems.  The EPA’s proposed limit on “acceptable” fine particulate pollution is stronger than the current standard but falls short of what many health and environmental experts recommend. The final version could tighten the limits considerably for “acceptable” fine particulate pollution  – which could save thousands of lives and improve the health of millions of Americans – or only make minor changes with minor health benefits.

When the Trump administration recommended standards in 2020 that were the same as those proposed eight years prior, and permitted deadly levels of pollution, Environment America spoke out and took legal action. After Joe Biden won the 2020 election, Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund urged his administration to adopt stronger soot standards in their reports First Things to Fix and The Next Things to Fix. More recently, Environment America, Environment America Research & Policy Center and the Solutions for Pollution Campaign collected more than 17,000 petition signatures in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin supporting stronger soot standards.


In response to the new EPA proposal, Lisa Frank, executive director of Environment America’s Washington Legislative Office, said:

“New limits on soot pollution are one of the best ways the Biden administration can improve Americans’ health, so we’re glad to finally see this proposal. Science tells us that no level of fine particulate pollution is safe, and our current standards don’t protect people’s health and safety enough.

“The options proposed by the EPA could reduce air pollution and improve the lives of communities impacted by air pollution, or keep the status quo of disease and premature mortality. The EPA should move swiftly to adopt the strictest possible standard, which could save 15,000 lives per year. Anything less would mean a missed opportunity to secure cleaner air for millions of Americans.”


Matt Casale, U.S. PIRG environment campaigns director, issued the following statement:

“We should be able to go about our daily lives without a dose of toxic pollution, but for too many Americans, the air we breathe makes us sick. Soot – particulate matter – is especially pernicious, easily entering our lungs, where it can do lifelong damage. It’s good news that the EPA is tackling this problem. The Biden administration should adopt the strongest standard, and they should do it as fast as possible.

“We urge the EPA to continue to strengthen air quality regulations for fine particle pollution and for other types of harmful air pollution including nitrogen oxides. The health and lives of Americans depend on it.”