The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Anne Hawke

Biden Administration Strengthens Health Standard for Soot Pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule today to tighten one national limit for soot pollution in the United States. It set the annual health standard for soot, otherwise known as fine particulate matter air pollution, or PM2.5, at 9 micrograms per cubic meter. The standard defines how much soot pollution is medically unsafe to breathe and sets the level to which this pollution must be reduced across the country.

Following is reaction from Manish Bapna, president and CEO of NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council):

“This will help save lives today and improve the health of generations to come. Soot puts tens of millions of Americans at risk, disproportionately harming low-income communities and people of color. It’s especially dangerous to children, the elderly and people coping with compromised health.

“The EPA is putting public health first by requiring polluters to cut soot from the air we all breathe.”


The current annual health standard for PM2.5 pollution, 12 micrograms per cubic meter, was set over a decade ago. EPA’s expert science advisors, the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee, had recommended that EPA tighten the annual standard to between 8-10 micrograms per cubic meter, with 8 being the safest level, and that EPA also strengthen the 24-hour health standard.

Soot air pollution from car and truck tailpipes, power plants and other fossil fuel combustion seriously harms human health, damaging the heart, brain and cardiovascular system and causing premature deaths. Air pollution limits under the Clean Air Act help the country avoid 370,000 premature deaths annually.

A recent NRDC analysis of EPA air monitoring data finds, among other things:

  • At least 57 million people live in areas with currently legal but still unhealthy levels of soot air pollution;
  • 20.9 million people live in areas exceeding current Clean Air Act limits for soot;
  • More than 38 million people live in 107 counties with average soot levels modeled to be within proposed legal limits but still at unhealthy levels (ranging from 8-9 micrograms per cubic meter); for 6.9 million of them, there is no direct soot monitoring happening in their counties; and,
  • 118 counties with unsafe soot pollution levels lack any monitor for directly assessing Clean Air Act compliance.

For more, here is a blog from NRDC director of applied research, Vijay Limaye.

NRDC works to safeguard the earth--its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends. We combine the power of more than three million members and online activists with the expertise of some 700 scientists, lawyers, and policy advocates across the globe to ensure the rights of all people to the air, the water, and the wild.

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