On January 6, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new standards for particle pollution for the first time since 2012. This rulemaking will have a huge impact on public health—and you have the chance to make your voice heard. Here’s what you need to know:
First of all, what is particle pollution?
Fine particle pollution consists of tiny particles in the air. Less than 2.5 microns in diameter, these small particles are also commonly referred to as “PM2.5” or “soot.” They’re bad for our health.
Where does it come from?
PM2.5 comes from burning fossil fuels (power plants, combustion engines, industrial processes, wood, wildfires). Other sources include agriculture and driving (e.g., tire friction on roadways).
How does it impact our health?
PM2.5 is a global killer, responsible for millions of deaths around the world each year and tens of thousands of deaths in the US.
It also affects our health in other ways, contributing to problems like asthma, respiratory disease, heart attacks, strokes, low birth weight, preterm birth, cognitive issues, and mental health impacts.
Who is most impacted?
The health impacts of PM2.5 aren’t distributed evenly. Breathing tiny particles is especially harmful for children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with underlying health problems.
Communities of color and low-income communities are more likely to be exposed to this form of pollution and bear a disproportionate burden of the health harms of PM2.5. It’s an issue of environmental justice.
So, where does EPA come in?
EPA sets standards for common air pollutants that affect our health, including PM2.5 These are called the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, or NAAQS (rhymes with “snacks”).
In proposing NAAQS for PM2.5, EPA relies on scientific guidance from the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC).
What kind of standards does EPA set for PM2.5?
EPA’s PM2.5 rule sets health-based limits, in micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3), for two measures of particle pollution: an annual average and a 24-hour average.
- The annual average limit addresses year-round exposure to particle pollution (currently set at 12 µg/m3).
- The 24-hour average limit addresses short-term daily spikes in particle pollution, such as bursts of pollution from fuel combustion and industrial facilities (currently set at 35 µg/m3).
Do our PM2.5 standards need an update?
The PM2.5 NAAQS haven’t been updated since 2012. Since then, scientists have learned a lot more about how dangerous particle pollution is for our health. It’s time to strengthen the PM2.5 standards to protect our families’ and communities’ health, and there’s no time to waste.
What is EPA proposing?
The NAAQS PM2.5 rule proposed by EPA in January 2023 suggests strengthening the annual average limit for particle pollution but falls short of the strongest limits recommended by scientific guidance.
The proposed rule also suggests maintaining the current 24-hour PM2.5 standard, instead of strengthening it. As is, the proposed rule misses a key opportunity to save lives, protect health, and advance environmental justice.
What can I do?
We can’t miss this critical opportunity to speak up for our families’ and communities’ health.
Join Moms Clean Air Force in calling on EPA to set a protective standard for PM2.5, consistent with the body of scientific evidence, of no higher than 8 µg/m3 for the annual standard and 25 µg/m3 for the daily standard. All of us deserve to breathe clean air. You can sign our digital petition below, and you can also sign up to give public testimony to EPA by emailing us at email@example.com