EPA strengthens Air Quality Standards
September 21, 2006
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced the strongest national air quality standards in the country's history. These National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) address fine and coarse particle pollution, also known as particulate matter (PM). PM is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets in the air (i.e. dust, soot and particles too small to see).
The standards address two categories of particle pollution: fine particles and inhalable coarse particles. Fine particles are 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller; inhalable coarse particles have diameters between 2.5 and 10 micrometers.
Exposure to particle pollution is linked to a variety of significant health problems ranging from aggravated asthma to premature death in people with heart and lung disease.
The final action significantly strengthens EPA's previous daily fine particle standard – by nearly 50 percent – from 65 micrograms of particles per cubic meter to 35 micrograms of particles per cubic meter of air.
These standards will require significant reductions in air pollution. States must meet the revised standards by 2015, with a possible extension to 2020, depending on local conditions and the availability of controls. Later this month, EPA will issue guidance on monitoring fine and coarse particle pollution.
For more information about the final standards announced today (9/21/06): http://epa.gov/pm/naaqsrev2006.html. For general information about particulate matter: http://epa.gov/pm/