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EPA tightens standards for fine particulates


From the December 17, 2012 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published December 17, 2012

By Jeannine Anderson
Editor

The Environmental Protection Agency on Dec. 14 tightened nationwide standards for fine particulate pollution (also known as PM 2.5), setting the annual health standard at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. That is down from the standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meter that was established in 1997.

In 2009, a federal court ordered the EPA to revise the standard, noting that the agency's own scientific advisory committee had said the 15-microgram standard was inadequate. The EPA issued a draft rule in June, and was under a court-ordered deadline to finalize it.

Fine particulate pollution "can penetrate deep into the lungs and has been linked to a wide range of serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children," the EPA said.

The Dec. 14 announcement has no effect on the existing daily standard for fine particulates or the existing daily standard for coarse particulates (PM10), which includes dust from farms and other sources. Both of these standards remain unchanged, the EPA said.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to review its air quality standards every five years to determine whether the standards should be revised. A federal court had directed the EPA to issue a final standard by Dec. 14 because the agency had not met its five-year statutory deadline for reviewing the standards.

"These standards are fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act. We will save lives and reduce the burden of illness in our communities, and families across the country will benefit from the simple fact of being able to breathe cleaner air," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

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