The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) informed states and tribes of the status of counties as the country prepare to meet the nation's first fine particle (PM2.5) air quality standard.
These tiny particles - approximately 1/30th the size of a human hair - have been scientifically linked to serious human health problems including premature death from heart and lung disease; aggravation of heart and lung diseases; chronic bronchitis and asthma; increased hospital admissions and doctor and emergency room visits; and absences from work and school.
"Fine-particle pollution represents one of the most significant barriers to clean air facing our nation today," Administrator Mike Leavitt said. "These new particulate health standards, coupled with our efforts to reduce power plant and diesel emissions, are important steps toward meeting our nation's commitment to clean, healthy air."
On June 28 and 29, EPA issued letters to states and tribes in response to their recommendations for attainment and nonattainment areas under the more protective national air quality standard for fine particles. Twenty-eight states were informed they are currently in attainment with the new standard. States with areas designated as nonattainment do not meet the new standard or contribute to pollution in a nearby area that does not meet the standards. EPA will issue final designations of counties attainment or nonattainment of the PM2.5 standard in November 2004, after states and tribes have had an opportunity to comment on the Agency's proposals.
The fine particle standards were established in 1997, but litigation significantly slowed their implementation. In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the standards and in 2002 all remaining legal challenges were cleared, allowing EPA to put these standards into effect. The implementation of these standards will prevent hundreds of thousands of occurrences of aggravated asthma and thousands of premature deaths every year. For more information on the fine particle standard, visit: http://www.epa.gov/pmdesignations/ .
The reduction of fine particle pollution is a critical element of the Bush Administration's comprehensive national clean air strategy. This strategy includes EPA's recent rule to reduce pollution from nonroad diesel engines, and the proposed rule to reduce pollution from power plants in the eastern U.S. These two rules are important components of EPA's efforts to help states and localities meet the more protective national fine-particle and 8-hour ozone air quality standards. Together these rules will help all areas of the country achieve cleaner air. For more information on these rules, visit: http://www.epa.gov/cleanair2004/ .