McEachin urging EPA to strengthen standards protecting Americans against particle pollution

donald mceachinCongressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) is leading an effort to urge the EPA to strengthen national standards for particulate matter pollution.

Earlier this year, the EPA proposed to retain the current National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS), despite recommendations from the EPA’s own scientists to strengthen the annual fine particulate matter standard from 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air to somewhere between 10 and 8 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

“There is strong evidence that the current standard is too weak,” the letter led by McEachin relayed,  citing the EPA’s own assessment that strengthening the standard to 9 μg/m3 would prevent up to 12,500 premature deaths. “By maintaining the current standards, EPA is in effect telling the public that the agency values industry and industry profits over human life. While there is no safe level of particle pollution, strengthening the standard to be more protective will save more lives that would have been at risk by leaving the standard unchanged.”

Often created by fossil fuel combustion or industrial processes, particle pollution has been found to be particularly dangerous and deadly for low-income communities, communities of color, and Tribal and indigenous communities, all of which are disproportionately exposed to higher levels of particle matter.

“Ignoring the need for stronger protections during a pandemic is particularly egregious,” the letter continued. “Emerging research show a correlation between particulate matter exposure and an increased rate of death from COVID-19. The dangers of COVID-19 complications are even greater among communities of color, many of which have been systemically burdened by higher levels of air pollution. Instead of ignoring science and favoring industry, we implore you to use this opportunity to offer some good news and hope for the health of our country.”

The letter is supported by a number of environmental and health advocacy groups, including Earthjustice and the American Lung Association.

“Particle pollution can cause respiratory problems, heart attacks, lung cancer and early death. Breathing particle pollution is unhealthy for everyone, but millions of people face an even greater risk for these health problems, including individuals with pre-existing conditions, children and communities of color,” said Harold Wimmer, American Lung Association National President and CEO. “EPA’s proposal to retain the current, inadequate standards violates a core principle of the Clean Air Act: to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. We thank Representatives McEachin, Sherrill, Blunt Rochester, Rush, Barragán and the members of Congress for standing up for public health by calling for more protective standards.”

“Earthjustice is proud to stand with Rep. McEachin and his colleagues in pursuing stronger Clean Air Act protections against deadly soot pollution,” said Terry McGuire, Earthjustice Senior Legislative Representative. “The Trump EPA seemingly does not care about the disproportionate harm their decisions inflict on communities of color and low-income families, even though we know these groups bear a greater burden and are at increased risk of death and serious illness from COVID-19. From a scientific and medical perspective, the decision to leave in place weak soot standards is unjustified and irresponsible. From a moral perspective, it is callous and outrageous. We deserve and demand better, and we look forward to working with Rep. McEachin to secure a health protective PM 2.5 standard.”

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