White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council Urges EPA to Move Swiftly to Significantly Strengthen Air Quality Standards

Soot and smog disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities


Zahra Ahmad, zahmad@earthjustice.org, (517) 898-0924

On Thursday, the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council sent a letter urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen the national ambient air quality standards for particulate matter and ozone to the most protective level EPA’s outside scientific advisors recommended. When implemented, these improved air quality regulations would prevent thousands of deaths, especially benefiting overburdened communities.

In the letter, the advisory council asked EPA to listen to the science and lower the allowable levels of fine particulate matter pollution, also known as soot, to 8 micrograms per cubic meter annually and 25 micrograms per cubic meter daily and ground-level ozone, also known as smog, between 55 and 60 parts per billion. Bad air quality is the world’s leading environmental killer, and stronger standards would save tens of thousands of lives annually in the United States.

“Stronger soot and smog standards will advance environmental justice,” said Earthjustice Attorney Marvin C. Brown. “In the United States, Brown and Black people breathe in more soot pollution, on average, than White people because sources of the deadly pollutants tend to operate near them. EPA’s own analysis shows this. EPA knows soot and smog have serious consequences for people, keeping kids home from school and even killing people. As the recent bad air quality days from wildfire smoke have highlighted, EPA must listen to its advisors and scientists and urgently act to pass stronger air quality rules because people’s lives depend on it.”

On June 9, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) published its assessment of ground-level ozone standards and virtually unanimously urged EPA to strengthen fundamental protections against ground-level ozone pollution. Eighteen independent experts on CASAC reviewed the existing ozone NAAQS, and all, except one, “concluded that the scientific evidence unequivocally demonstrates that the current primary and secondary standards are not protective of public health and public welfare.” The science supports a standard between 55 and 60 parts per billion, compared with its current level of 70 parts per billion.

In March 2022, the majority of CASAC found the science regarding fine particulate matter’s health effects supported an annual standard between 8 and 10 micrograms per cubic meter and a 24-hour standard between 25 and 30 micrograms per cubic meter. The current standards are 12 micrograms per cubic meter (annual) and 35 micrograms per cubic meter (24-hour).

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