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EPA cracks down on small particulates

CARB statement on U.S. EPA proposal to strengthen health-based standards for fine particulate matter pollution, or soot

The California Air Resources Board applauds U.S. EPA’s proposal to strengthen the primary health-based national air quality standard for fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5 or soot. EPA made this proposal to revise the annual standard after conducting a careful review of the most recent health science. CARB commends EPA for striving to protect public health from harmful air pollutants by ensuring that policies that impact public health are supported by up-to-date, defensible science. Given scientific studies demonstrating health impacts down to the level of 8 micrograms, CARB encourages EPA to consider further strengthening of the proposal. CARB also urges EPA to consider strengthening the short-term or 24-hour standard. CARB has previously urged EPA to consider a short-term standard for fine particulate matter as low as 25 micrograms, to ensure the highest level of health protection.

For California, CARB estimates that lowering the current annual PM2.5 standard in the range of 8-10 micrograms could prevent 4,600 annual premature deaths, 850 heart and lung disease hospitalizations, and 2,100 asthma emergency room visits. Research has shown that PM2.5 air pollution exposure is linked to a growing number of additional health problems, even at low concentrations, resulting in economic impacts, including lost workdays and school absences. Research also shows that PM2.5 disproportionately impacts people of color and low-income communities often located near ports, freeways or other sources of this harmful pollution, in both California and across the country.

“We applaud this move by EPA toward stronger standards to protect public health, and we encourage further strengthening of EPA’s proposal,” CARB Executive Officer Dr.Steven Cliff said. “In addition, in light of the fact that over half of mobile source emissions in California come primarily from federally regulated sources, such as locomotives, ships and airplanes, it is imperative that EPA expeditiously approve California’s waiver requests, and commit to do its part to reduce harmful emissions to mitigate the impacts of fine particulate pollution, especially on the low-income communities and people with greater economic and environmental challenges who bear the brunt of these impacts.”