January 27, 2023 – Chicago, IL – On January 6th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was proposing changes to the federal health standard for fine particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), one of the most widespread and deadly pollutants in the United States. Despite our hope that an objective view of the collected scientific record would result in a proposed standard truly protective of public health, particularly for the most vulnerable people and communities, Respiratory Health Association was disappointed by the content of EPA’s announcement.
It is abundantly clear that the EPA-favored proposal would simply leave too much deadly soot in the air people breathe. While the scope of the new proposal is an improvement over the current standard, it favors setting a health standard that is too lax by leaning away from limiting pollution to levels that would save nearly 20,000 lives additional lives a year.
Based on the collected scientific knowledge and independent expert opinion, Respiratory Health Association believes this air quality health standard must be tightened to the greatest extent possible under consideration, specifically 8 micrograms/m3 on an annual basis and 25 micrograms/m3 on a 24-hour basis.
This issue is literally one of life and death. Breathing fine particulate matter in the air is literally a death sentence for thousands of Americans every year. Legally allowing this pollution to remain at levels that will continue to add to this tragedy would be not only irresponsible of EPA but patently unjust for the low-income and minority communities now seeing both the highest levels of pollution and the consequent disproportionate health and life impacts.
Americans deserve clean air and that right should not be constrained by the wishes of polluters to continue to emit harmful material into the air. EPA Administrator Regan will make the final call on what EPA’s new health standard will be for deadly fine particulate matter this year. We strongly encourage him to set the tightest standard possible to protect the health of all Americans and prevent the greatest number of premature deaths, particularly for those living with and at risk of developing lung disease.
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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906, focusing on lung health and clean air issues. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. As a policy leader, RHA is committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for federal oversight of tobacco and vaping products, smoke-free laws, Tobacco 21, and other tobacco product policies.