A federal appeals court yesterday ordered the EPA to reconsider its standards for pollutants, particularly particulate matter (PM). Fine particulates, such as soot, have been linked to premature death, asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease. Furthermore, black carbon soot is a major greenhouse player, as it absorbs and then radiates massive amounts of heat back to earth when it is in the air.
Reports the New York Times,
Researchers have drawn direct and immediate links between ambient levels of fine particulates and hospital admissions and deaths. By some estimates, tens of thousands of Americans die each year from exposure to airborne particulates.
Among other sources, fine particulates come from diesel engines, power plants, certain industrial processes and even fireplaces. Perhaps one-thirtieth the diameter of a human hair, they can make their way deep into the lungs and in some cases even into the bloodstream.
The EPA last approved PM standards in 2006, when scientists from within the agency itself argued that they were too weak. Scientists argued that acceptable levels should be lowered to 12 to 14 micrograms per cubic meter of air instead of 15, but (surprise, surprise) then-chief administrator Steven Johnson said that not enough evidence linked PM to detrimental health effects.
The article continues,
The case decided on Tuesday also involved coarse particulates, like dust, and particulate contributions to haze… and it said the E.P.A. must act to reduce the role of particulates in haze.
The court’s ruling may mean that cities notorious for smog– such as Houston – will have to start doing even more to clean up the air. If pollutant standards are fixed at lower levels that will actually protect public health, these cities may find themselves even closer to non-attainment.
Reports the Houston Chronicle,
For Houston, which is already struggling to meet the EPA’s standards for smog-forming ozone, the designation would mean another deadline, another costly pollution-fighting plan and another threat that federal highway dollars will be withheld if the air doesn’t get cleaner.
“This comes at a really good time because there is concern that the state and federal agencies will take their eye off the ball when it comes to fine particulates,” said Matthew Tejada, executive director of the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention. “It will force use to look at this important issue in a timely manner.”
Its pretty nice to have an EPA that is serious about Environmental Protection Again.