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December 14, 2012

EPA Acts to Protect Lives, Lungs from Soot

Victory: New air standard will save thousands of lives annually


Jessica Hodge, Earthjustice, (202) 745-5201

Washington, D.C.

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted protections that will slash the amount of soot allowed in our air, improving air quality for millions of Americans. This move by the EPA comes in response to legal action filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the American Lung Association and the National Parks Conservation Association asking that the EPA follow the Clean Air Act’s requirements to protect the public’s health and well-being.

“This new standard could save tens of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in health related costs every year,” said Earthjustice attorney Paul Cort, who represented the Lung Association and the National Parks Conservation Association in the lawsuit forcing EPA to issue the soot rule. “We know that soot kills and is especially dangerous for our children and seniors. We are encouraged that the EPA is finally willing to protect these communities. It is now up to the EPA to ensure these standards are met as soon as possible across the country.”

Deadly fine particulate matter, also known as soot, is caused by pollution from tailpipes, smokestacks and industrial power plants. Breathing soot can cause premature death, heart disease, lung damage and potentially cancer. It has also been linked with developmental and reproductive harms. Last year, Earthjustice, the American Lung Association and Clean Air Task Force released “Sick of Soot,” a comprehensive report demonstrating that thousands of lives could be saved each year if soot pollution limits were set at the highest levels. The EPA’s proposal today is slightly below the strongest recommended levels, but is nonetheless an important step towards cleaner, healthier air.

EPA and its science advisors had recommended specific measures to reduce unsightly haze pollution, but unfortunately the Administrator chose not to adopt the more protective standard recommended.

“Every year, millions of people visit our national parks expecting clean air and clear views,” said Mark Wenzler, NPCA Vice President of Climate and Air Quality Programs. “But they instead find their health compromised and the beauty of these sites degraded because of lax controls for soot pollution. The EPA’s announcement today will cut dangerous air pollution but could have done more to protect visibility in national parks. The EPA made a good first step towards cleaning up soot and we are hopeful that they will look to take additional measures to improve visibility in the future.”

Download the report: Sick Of Soot: How the EPA Can Save Lives by Cleaning Up Fine Particle Pollution (PDF)

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.