Respiratory Health Association Statement on Final U.S. EPA PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standard Announcement

February 7, 2024 – Chicago, IL – Respiratory Health Association (RHA) applauds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to significantly tighten the national ambient air quality standard for fine particulate matter (commonly called “soot”). As a respiratory irritant, fine particle pollution increases the number of asthma attacks, emergency room visits, respiratory hospitalizations, and premature deaths. The health standard finalized by the Agency recognizes what scientists have been saying for years– particle pollution is harmful to human health even at low concentrations.

The EPA’s action is also important for health equity. Fine particle pollution disproportionately impacts minority communities.  Research has shown that U.S. racial and ethnic minorities, as well as lower-income groups, are at a higher risk of premature death from exposure to PM2.5 air pollution. The Agency’s decision will result in fewer people from underserved communities dying from breathing air pollution, in a portion of the country where the pollution levels are consistently among the highest.

“It has been an 11-year struggle to set soot pollution standards that adequately protect human health based on science,” said Brian Urbaszewski, RHA Director of Environmental Health Programs. “The decision finalized today will save over 4,000 lives a year and begin to reduce the disproportionate air pollution burden borne by communities of color.”

However, the standard chosen still falls short of the levels supported by health and medical groups, including RHA. The EPA’s own Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) shows that lowering the annual standard further would prevent 9,200 premature deaths, compared to 4,500 premature deaths with the standard announced today.

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About Respiratory Health Association

RHA has been a local public health leader in Chicago since 1906. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. To learn more, visit www.resphealth.org.