EPA proposes new rule to crack down on deadly air pollution
Author: Ella Nilsen
For the first time since 2012, the US Environmental Protection Agency is proposing an update to the federal air quality standard for fine soot – a long-awaited step to reduce deadly air pollution. The current standard, which has been in place for more than a decade, limits the average annual amount of fine particle pollution to 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The EPA is proposing reducing that limit to 9 to 10 micrograms, though it will be taking public comment on a range as low as 8 and as high as 11 migrograms per cubic meter. The final standard will be a single digit somewhere in that range. Fine particulate matter – called PM2.5 – pollutes outdoor air by the burning of fossil fuels like gasoline, diesel and oil, as well as wood. It is the tiniest pollutant yet among the most dangerous. When inhaled, it travels deep into lung tissue, where it can enter the bloodstream and can contribute to cardiovascular disease, asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Given the significant health risk, the World Health Organization in 2021 recommended that environmental agencies cut the allowable limit to 5 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Doing so, the organization said, could reduce deaths associated with fine particle pollution by as much as 80%, though there is no amount of air pollution that is completely safe.