Statement: Thousands of lives at stake in new soot proposal

Media Contacts

Lisa Frank

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

A stronger standard would save four times more lives

PITTSBURGH – 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 other health problems. 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. Tightening the limit to the lower level recommended by the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Committee would save four times as many lives as the level newly proposed by EPA.

PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center collected nearly 10,000 petition signatures from Pennsylvanians demanding strong action to rein in this dangerous pollution.

In response to the new EPA proposal, Zachary Barber, the clean air advocate with PennEnvironment, said:

“We should be able to go about our daily lives without a dose of toxic pollution, but for too many Pennsylvanians, 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. 

“However, we’re disappointed that the current proposal would continue to expose millions of Americans to deadly pollution. In line with the expert Science Advisory Committee’s recommendations, the Biden administration should adopt the strongest standard, and they should do it as fast as possible.

“The options proposed by 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 an estimated 19,600 lives per year. Anything less would mean a missed opportunity to secure cleaner air for millions of Americans.

“Ratcheting down soot pollution is one of the best ways the Biden administration can improve Americans’ health. 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.

“Pennsylvanians are suffering from the scourge of soot pollution. PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center’s Trouble in the Air report found that millions of Pennsylvanians live in areas that experience upwards of 50 days of elevated soot pollution per year. This pollution is known to worsen asthma, contribute to heart disease, and lead to premature death.”



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