EPA Expected to Lower the Fine Particle Standards to Protect Our Health
Changes are in the wind at the U.S. EPA, which is currently considering revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM 2.5).
Wood smoke is a major contributor to fine particle pollution, which is hazardous to health in many ways. The EPA is expected to issue the final rule for PM 2.5 NAAQS later this year and is expected to make the standards more stringent to protect the public’s health. A lower PM 2.5 standard has long been advocated by leading scientists, physicians, and health professionals.
Supporting information from the EPA regarding this rule includes an “Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter” report and the document “Policy Assessment for the Review of the Particulate Matter National Ambient Air Quality Standards.”
The policy assessment discusses revising the current annual PM 2.5 standard level of 15 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) to a level of 11 to 13 µg/m3. It also discusses whether the current 24-hour standard of 35 µg/m3 should remain or be revised to 30 μg/m3.
The EPA’s decision on the 24-hour standard for PM 2.5 is important because, in conjunction with the new NAAQS, EPA is also considering a rule that would revise Air Quality Index (AQI) values.
The current PM 2.5 AQI value of 100 is set at 40.5 µg/m3, and anything above 100 is considered unhealthy for sensitive people such as the elderly and those with asthma or cardiovascular conditions. The proposed rule would change the AQI value (when air quality is considered “unhealthy”) to 35 µg/m3, which is the current 24-hour standard for PM 2.5. This change would increase the number of days on which air quality is considered unhealthy.
We think a lowering of the PM 2.5 standard is long overdue and would reflect the recommendations of health professionals and protect the public’s health from the effects of fine particle pollution.