EPA Squanders Opportunity to Protect the American Public from Life-threatening Particulate Air Pollution

NEW YORK, NY – Jan. 16, 2023 – Today, the EPA released an inadequate proposed rule that fails to protect the health of the American public from the life-threatening effects of common daily exposures to the air pollutant, particulate matter. 

“The American Thoracic Society is very disappointed in the EPA’s announcement,” said ATS Environmental Health Policy Committee Chair Jack Harkema DVM, PhD, ATSF.  “The proposed rule fails 1) to respect the strong science that supports a more protective clean air standard and 2) to follow the urgent recommendations from the vast 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.”

Particulate matter pollution is a deadly form of air pollution caused by carbon combustion and atmospheric reactions that create microscopic airborne solids and liquids that when inhaled deep into the lungs can trigger a wide variety of acute and chronic health problems.  Extensive research has linked particulate matter pollution to several adverse health outcomes including asthma, COPD, cardiovascular diseases, hospitalizations, emergency room visits, low birth weights and even premature death. 

In line with the scientific and medical communities, the ATS recommends that the EPA adopt a National Ambient Air Quality Standard for particulate matter of 8 ug/m3 annual and a daily standard of 25 ug/m3.