Health groups have warned that the government’s new air pollution limit is not strong enough and will lead to more cancers and lung diseases.
On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lowered the annual limit on levels of soot, a deadly type of airborne toxin, by about 25 percent.
Despite lobbying from the American Lung Association (ALA), the EPA did not revise its 24-hour limit, which health experts say is equally important.
The annual limits measure pollutants from burning fossil fuels each year, but do not take into account daily fluctuations, such as when the wind blows soot over communities or when excessive wood is burned.
Inhaling high levels of small particles almost instantly causes shortness of breath and chest pain, and asthma attacks can begin within a day of being in contaminated air.
Paul Billings, of the American Lung Association, told DailyMail.com: ‘We know from science that regular exposure to particles can cause premature deaths, asthma attacks and cancer.
“The concept must be protected against daily exposures, and the current daily standard is not strong enough.”
Health organizations have criticized government updates to controls on a deadly form of air pollution, saying the changes “are not strong enough”. The EPA lowered the current annual standard for soot on Wednesday from 12 micrograms to 9 micrograms per cubic meter.
Soot, or fine particles, comes from sources ranging from power plants to vehicle exhaust and refineries and causes lung and heart damage.
The EPA announced Wednesday that the current annual standard will go from 12 micrograms to 9 micrograms per cubic meter.
Air quality in the US has improved dramatically since the Clean Air Act went into effect in 1963, but a 2022 study from the University of Minnesota showed that exposure to air pollution is still associated with among 100,000 and 200,000 deaths a year.
In 2004, the annual standard was 15 micrograms per cubic meter and the daily standard was 65 micrograms.
And that same year, fine particle pollution exceeded limits in cities in 21 states that were home to 96 million people.
The EPA estimated that the recent drop to 9 micrograms per cubic meter would prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths and 290,000 lost work days, and generate up to $46 billion in net health benefits in 2032, the first year states would have to comply with the new standard. .
And although the agency said the move was “based on the best available science,” ALA is certain that is not the case.
“The standards do not meet what the Lung Association asked for and what science shows is necessary,” the organization shared in a statement.
Billings, senior vice president of public policy, told DailyMail.com that the decision not to change the daily standard affects many American communities that are downwind and near sources of soot.
“Because the levels still meet the new annual standards, these communities cannot write plans that require cleanup,” he continued.
“That means they can’t unlock the tools needed for cleaning.”
In addition to requesting a 24-hour update to the standard, ALA had also asked the EPA to reduce the annual standard to 8 micrograms per cubic meter.
ALA said EPA’s analysis of the proposal showed that reducing the annual level by one more microgram would have saved significantly more lives than advertised.
However, the American Lung Association (ALA) had asked officials to update the 24-hour standard from 35 to 25 micrograms, noting that the EPA’s announcement showed it “failed to follow strong science-based recommendations.”
The health organization’s 2023 “State of the Air” report found that 63.7 million people lived in counties experiencing more episodes of unhealthy spikes in particle pollution.
Anne Mellinger-Birdsong, health advisor for Mothers and Others for Clean Air, who also petitioned the EPA with ALA, shared in a statement: “As a pediatrician, I want babies to be born as healthy as possible and I want children prosper.” and reach your full potential, without asthma attacks or other health problems.
“Strengthening both 24-hour and annual standards is important to achieve health and equity benefits.”
But the EPA’s efforts, while not as strong as some would like, have decreased air pollution by 42 percent since 2000.
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said, “This final air quality rule will save lives and make everyone healthier, especially in America’s most vulnerable and overburdened communities.”
The agency shared a map with Wednesday’s announcement, showing hotspots with the highest levels of soot.
California leads the pack, and Kern County has the highest level in the country: 18.8 micrograms per cubic meter.
The state has nine other counties that exceed the standards.
Please, Florida, Texas, Oregon, Washington State, Pennsylvania and the Great Lakes states are also above the new 9 microgram update.
“It’s been a long fight to strengthen air quality,” said Billings, senior vice president of public policy.
He went on to explain that the EPA is supposed to review the standards every five years and update them based on the latest scientific advances.
“The reviews have been delayed since 2012 and in December 2022, the acting EPA administrator at the time determined that the standards were fine,” Billings said.
ALA filed litigation in 2021 challenging the decision, which was made under the Trump administration and Wednesday’s announcement is a result of the motion.
“The previous EPA administrator didn’t do it right,” Billings said.
The EPA said Wednesday it will go through a process over the next year to designate which areas already meet the standard and which do not, but projects that by 2032, 99 percent of countries will have PM levels that meet the new standards. .
According to a map shared by the EPA, only 52 counties would not meet the annual standard by 2032.
Between 2019 and 2021, West Coast cities, particularly California, ranked among the worst areas for ozone and fine particulate air pollution.
Industry groups, which have been urging the EPA to set a less stringent standard, criticized the proposal.
The reaction warned that it would delay the granting of environmental permits and the implementation of the administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, which has spurred a national clean energy manufacturing boom.
National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons said: “The Biden administration’s new PM2.5 standard directly targets manufacturing investment and job creation, in direct contradiction to the president’s stated goal of strengthen manufacturing in communities across the United States.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce projected that up to 569 counties would not comply, arguing that non-industrial sources, such as wildfires, are a major source of soot.
Marty Durbin, the House’s senior vice president for policy, said the process to claim these waivers is “time-consuming and difficult for states to manage.”
Regan told reporters that the EPA has simplified the process to make it easier for states to request exclusions from the standard in the event of wildfires.
Shortly after Republican President Richard Nixon created the EPA by executive order in 1970, the agency set about cleaning up the nation.
The EPA was born in the United States, where rampant pollution made it unsafe for its citizens to fish or swim in many of the country’s rivers and thick air pollution obscured the iconic skylines of major cities, from New York to San Francisco.
“Thousands of people die from fine particles,” Billings told DailyMail.com.
‘The Clean Air Act was passed when the EPA was formed in 1970 and the authors understood pollution then and in the 1950s and 1960s.
“During those decades we saw major episodes of air pollution: on certain days you couldn’t see the other side of the street.”