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EPA Released Proposed New Particulate Matter Pollution Standard – Fails to Follow Expert Recommendations

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency released a proposed rule to create a marginally more protective National Ambient Air Quality Standard for particulate matter pollution. The EPA is proposing to replace the current average annual exposure standard of 12 ug/m3 with a revised standard of 9 or 10 ug/m3 – but is accepting comments on a revised standard as low as 8 ug/m3 or as high as 11 ug/m3. The agency is proposing to retain current daily standard of 35 ug/m3.

While proposing a more protective standard, the EPA did not follow the advice of its expert advisory panel – the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee – known as CASAC – which recommended an annual standard of 8 ug/m3 and a daily standard as low as 30 ug/m3.

The ATS recommends a more protective standard for particulate matter of 8 ug/m3 annual and a daily standard of 25 ug/m3. 

“The American Thoracic Society is very disappointed in EPA’s announcement,” said ATS Environmental Health Policy Committee Chair Jack Harkema, DVM, PhD, ATSF. “The proposed rule fails to respect the strong science that supports a more protective clean air standard and does not follow the urgent recommendations from the medical community, and even those from discerning experts on its own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. I expected better from the EPA.”

“A more protective short-term standard is imperative to address ‘hot-spot’ locations with markedly higher pollution concentrations that are disproportionately located in or around lower-income communities and communities of color. For an Administration that has made addressing environmental justice a priority, the EPA has failed to take real action to protect all Americans, and especially communities made vulnerable by structural inequities, from the very real dangers of particulate matter air pollution,” noted ATS Environmental Health Policy Committee vice-chair Alison Lee, MD, MS. “EPA’s decision not to revise the daily standard is a squandered opportunity to improve the health of disadvantaged communities across the U.S.”

EPA will now hold a comment period to accept public input on the proposed rule. The ATS will continue to urge EPA to follow the science and expert recommendation and adopt a final annual standard of 8 ug/m3 and daily standard of 25 ug/m3.

Last Reviewed: January 2023