New Air Quality Standards Reject Science, Leave Millions at Risk

For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON, DC—The Environmental Protection Agency today finalized new national air quality standards for particle “soot” pollution that ignore the overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that the standards need to be substantially strengthened to protect Americans from this deadly air pollutant. National air quality standards are the backbone of the Clean Air Act and thus efforts to reduce air pollution nationwide.

“We are extremely disappointed in today’s decision by the Bush administration to turn its back on the clear scientific facts about this deadly pollutant in order to once again do the bidding of big polluters. This decision will affect Americans’ health more than any other EPA decision this year, and the Bush administration completely dropped the ball,” said Environment Colorado Clean Energy Associate Isaac Silverman.

EPA's own staff scientists and independent scientific advisors all recommended stronger standards than the ones announced today. Environment Colorado, the American Lung Association, and numerous medical and public health groups had urged EPA to adopt much more protective fine particle standards, including an annual standard of 12 µg/m3 and a daily standard of 25 µg/m3. Instead, EPA failed to tighten the annual standard of 15 µg/m3 and made just a token change to the 24-hour standard that will have little impact on public health, lowering it to 35 µg/m3. The annual standard is based on how much fine particle pollution is safe to breathe on a regular basis, while the daily standard is based on how much fine particle pollution is safe to breathe on any one given day.

“This pollutant endangers people’s lives, but the Bush administration threw out all of the scientific evidence in order to attempt to justify weak standards that will leave Americans gasping for breath,” said Silverman.

Combustion sources such as power plants and diesel engines are the largest sources of fine particle pollution. The electric power, coal, oil, chemical, steel, mining, automotive and diesel engine industries all lobbied against stronger particle pollution standards.

Particle pollution is the nation’s deadliest air pollutant and endangers people’s lives and health at levels well below those announced by EPA today. The tiny particles can bypass the body’s natural defenses, such as coughing and sneezing, and lodge deep in the lungs or even pass into the bloodstream, causing serious respiratory and cardiovascular problems, such as asthma attacks, heart attacks, lung cancer, strokes, and premature death.

“Once again, the Bush administration put politics above science and the law to the detriment of public health and our environment,” concluded Silverman.