The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7118
Caroline Cox, Center for Environmental Health, (510) 655-3900 x 308

Lawsuit Launched to Fight Dangerous Sulfur, Nitrogen Pollution


Conservation and public-health groups today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency because the agency has failed to update air-pollution thresholds for sulfur and nitrogen. Standards for the dangerous air pollutants known as sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides must be reviewed and updated every five years in order to account for the latest research on their threats to public health and the environment.

"Our fossil fuel addiction continues to sicken millions of Americans and poison the environment," said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "The Clean Air Act has been incredibly successful in saving lives and cleaning up our skies, but it only works when there are strict protections in place to hold polluters accountable."

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to identify and set "national ambient air quality standards" for pollutants such as sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides, produced from the manufacture and burning of fossil fuels. Since the EPA last set air-quality standards for those pollutants in 2010, the research linking sulfur and nitrogen oxides to lung and heart disease, asthma, diabetes, birth problems, total mortality and cancer has only become stronger.

"EPA has made a commitment to good science, and that must include regularly re-evaluating air quality standards based on new research," said Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health.

Sulfur oxides (SOx) are primarily produced from the burning of coal, but are also released during oil and metal manufacturing. Measured as sulfur dioxide (SO2), they're linked to a range of heart and lung diseases, particularly for children and the elderly. They also contribute to acid rain and haze, damaging ecosystems throughout the United States and decreasing visibility in national parks. Currently 14 states fail to meet the current clean-air standards for sulfur oxides.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are created by burning fossil fuels and contribute to the formation of ozone and soot. Measured as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), they're linked to a range of health problems including increased lung and heart disease, diabetes, birth problems, increased deaths and cancer. They also lead to excess nitrates in drinking water supplies and soils, causing toxic algal blooms and harmful changes to ecosystems.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

(520) 623-5252