EPA Report Says Millions of People Inhaling ‘Unhealthful Air’
Ninety-nine million U.S. residents are breathing "unhealthful air" that could lead to respiratory problems and premature death, according to an EPA report released Tuesday, the Washington Post reports. The agency identified 243 counties that do not meet national air standards for fine-particle pollution, which mainly consists of soot (Eilperin, Washington Post, 6/30). Maryland and New Jersey are the states with the most counties failing to meet soot standards (Lane, Newark Star-Leger, 6/30). Current federal standards mandate that levels of particulates -- which can cause premature death, can aggravate heart and lung disease and have possible links to lung cancer, infant mortality and developmental problems -- cannot exceed an average of 15 micrograms per cubic meter on any given day (Fialka, Wall Street Journal, 6/30).
Fine-particle pollution comes from emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide from industrial boilers, boats, power plants and other sources. EPA gave states three months to respond to the issue before the agency releases its final standards in November (Washington Post, 6/30). The federal rule, expected to be approved next spring, would give states from 2010 to 2015 to "clear their air or face penalties that include restrictions on federal highway funds and limits on future growth," the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 6/30). While environmentalists "praised" the EPA for its efforts to reduce fine-particle pollution, they "questioned whether the administration is moving fast enough" in light of health problems the particles can cause, the Post reports. According to the Post, state and industry officials are giving the administration "resistance," saying that "dirty-air designations will hinder economic development" (Washington Post, 6/30).