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The Nation Is Sick of Soot

Sometimes, little things cause big problems. The tiny particles in soot pollution are 1/30th the width of a strand of your hair, and yet those tiny particles may be responsible for the premature deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year.

Earthjustice, Clean Air Task Force and the American Lung Association released a report today—titled Sick of Soot—that shows nearly 36,000 premature deaths could be prevented in the U.S. every year if the Environmental Protection Agency strengthens the health standards for soot pollution.

In 2009, following an Earthjustice lawsuit, a federal court found that the EPA's current standards are inadequate to protect public health and ordered the agency to update them. Nearly three years later, the EPA hasn't budged. So today, in addition to co-releasing Sick of Soot, Earthjustice went back to the same federal court—on behalf of the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund and National Parks Conservation Association—and asked it to set a deadline for the EPA to issue stronger soot standards.

"The EPA needs to start moving in a different direction," said Earthjustice attorney David Baron. "Sick of Soot points the way."

If the EPA tightens the soot standards to the recommendation made in Sick of Soot, the nation could be spared every year from as many as:

  • 35,700 premature deaths;
  • 2,350 heart attacks;
  • 23,290 visits to the hospital and emergency room;
  • 29,800 cases of acute bronchitis;
  • 1.4 million cases of aggravated asthma; and
  • 2.7 million days of missed work or school due to air pollution-caused ailments.

The economic benefits associated with reduced exposure to soot are estimated to reach as much as $281 billion annually.

One might assume that these tremendous benefits would be enough to get the EPA to move forward on updated standards. Sadly, that's not the case. But, the petition filed today and an additional legal action that Earthjustice took in October aim to compel the agency to stop dragging its feet. "Given the large number of lives at stake, it's clear that the EPA needs to act now," added Baron.

The attorneys general of 10 states—New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont—also filed a petition today in federal court, asking for a deadline for the EPA to issue strong soot standards.

If you think the EPA should act promptly to protect us from the dangers of soot pollution, please check out the report and share it via Twitter and Facebook with your friends. Together, we can build pressure on the EPA and show that Americans want protection from one of the most dangerous air pollutants around.

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