EPA Reinstates Panel to Address Air Pollution
In the US, there are about 200,000 deaths per year due to ambient air pollution exposure (fossil fuel air pollution causes almost 1 in 5 deaths globally each year). That's why it's important that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced it would be rolling back another destructive Trump-era air pollution policy. In December 2020, the Trump Administration opted to leave the 2012 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) in place, despite scientific evidence showing the standards were too lax and allowed deadly levels of pollution.
In the US, 100,000 deaths occur annually due to exposure to ambient air pollution -- before the COVID-19 pandemic, this represented about 1 in 25 deaths. Infants and children are uniquely sensitive to air pollution -- it is a ruthless killer that can even harm the development of unborn babies while they're still in the womb.
That's why it was important that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that it would rolling back another destructive Trump-era air pollution policy. In December 2020, the Trump administration chose to leave the 2012 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) in place, despite scientific evidence which said the standards were too lax and allowed deadly levels of pollution.
The EPA will now also reconvene a specialized panel that helps compile and review new research on air pollution in an effort to allow the agency to best protect human health.
WHO: How air pollution impacts your body, March 13, 2018.
Why This Matters
As Dr. Gretchen T. Goldman, research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists said it best:
Fine particulate matter is one of the most common, and most harmful ambient air pollutants. In recent years, the science increasingly shows the clear health risks of PM 2.5 -- and its disproportionate impact on communities of color and low-income communities. The EPA should be following the science showing the need for stronger PM standards to protect public health, especially for sensitive populations.
Climate Reality: Climate Health Connection Environmental Pollution, May 30, 2019.
The Need for Action
The Trump administration refused to take action on strengthening particulate matter pollution standards despite the risk to public health this pollutant poses to public health.
In addition to direct health risks, air pollution poses is a significant economic cost. A recent report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) shows that air pollution and climate change cost each American an average of $2,500 per year in healthcare health care costs.
Currently 135 million Americans are breathing unhealthy air. Cities like San Francisco are voting to fight pollution from heavy industries, but federal standards grounded in sound science are also needed to ensure all Americans are able to breathe clean air.
As scientist H. Christopher Frey -- who was a member of the panel reinstated by the EPA after it was disbanded by Trump -- explained:
- Fine particle air pollution comes from many sources, including burning fossil fuels. Today more than 20 million Americans live in areas with high levels of fine particles.
- Average annual fine particulate levels in the U.S. fell by nearly 25% between 2009 and 2016, but this trend may be reversing. Increasingly frequent and severe wildfires, such as those recently raging in California, are one likely source.
- A recent study found that fine particle levels rose 5.5% between 2016 and 2018 and estimated that this increase was associated with some 9,700 premature deaths in 2018 that would not have occurred otherwise.
TED: María Neira - This is your brain on air pollution, March 18, 2020.