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The EPA Has Tightened Standards on a Deadly Type of Air Pollution

What happened: In a major win for public health, the EPA finalized new, tighter standards on PM2.5 air pollution, also known as soot.

Why it matters: Particulate matter pollution (PM2.5) is a type of air pollution that can penetrate deep into our lungs and hearts, contributing to countless chronic illnesses. In early 2023, the EPA proposed new PM2.5 standards, which health and environmental advocates argued were not strong enough. After hearing from the public, including 32,000 Earthjustice supporters, the EPA delivered stronger air quality protections. This type of pollution kills nearly 50,000 people in the United States every year, and the EPA’s new standards are expected to reduce air pollution and save thousands of lives.

What is PM2.5, and why is it so dangerous?  

  • What it is: PM2.5, also known as soot, is small particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or less – a size small enough to penetrate deep into your lungs and heart. It inflames the airways, gets into the bloodstream, and impairs the body’s immune responses.
  • Exposure is linked to adverse health complications: This type of pollution causes asthma attacks, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits for cardiopulmonary diseases. It is also linked to cancer.
  • Disproportionate impacts: We know soot pollution disproportionately affects people of color — particularly Black and brown people — due to where they live and work.

Strong standards matter. 

  • Multiple sources: Particulate matter pollution comes from fossil fuel combustion for electricity generation, manufacturing, transportation, and agriculture.
  • Standards save lives: This strengthening of the PM2.5 national standards will force these polluting sources to reduce their harmful emissions, resulting in saved lives, better public health, and clearer skies.
  • Where we come in: If a region’s current air quality is worse than a new, tightened standard, the state government must implement plans to curb air pollution so that the air quality will meet the updated standard. Earthjustice watches to make sure that the government puts forward real plans and follow through on them. If they do not, we take them to court.

We’re continuing to fight for clean air for all.

  • Industry has no right to poison our families and our neighborhoods. Earthjustice will keep working for this important new standard to be quickly and fully implemented and will continue pushing for the stronger standards we need.
  • More work to do: Join us in advocating for the swift implementation of the strengthened standards.
Out of focus people in the foreground with the Los Angeles skyline behind them, in focus, on a sunny day with clouds in the sky.
People enjoy a sunny afternoon in a Los Angeles park with a view of the downtown skyline. (Chris Delmas / AFP via Getty Images)