The health threat from tiny soot particles is so grave that EPA should adopt a tougher new short-term standard to protect public health while retaining the longer-term standard adopted in 1997, a coalition led by the American Lung Association (ALA) testified today.
Recent scientific studies confirm that tiny soot particles, produced chiefly by motor vehicles and electric power plants, are linked to premature death and serious lung disease, the health coalition said.
Infants and children -- especially those with asthma -- the elderly, and people with heart or lung disease are especially vulnerable.
Anthony J. DeLucia, Ph.D., president-elect of the ALA and a faculty member of East Tennessee State University''s College of Medicine, testified for the coalition before a panel of EPA scientific advisors.
EPA is reviewing a summary of scientific literature about fine particle soot compiled by EPA scientists, a preliminary step as EPA re-examines its current health standards.
The agency set new particle soot standards in 1997 despite opposition from industry groups that claimed EPA had overstated the scientific basis for the standards.
DeLucia noted that "hundreds of studies published in the last five years support EPA''s 1997 decision" to set new standards for fine-particle soot.
"The research leaves no room to weaken the air quality standards in 1997, and indeed, makes a strong case that the short-term fine particle standard needs to be strengthened," he said.
DeLucia specifically noted that:
- Recent studies had re-examined and validated studies -- that EPA relied on in 1997 -- which linked fine particle soot to premature death;
- Six dozen new short-term studies from across the United States and around the world "confirm the effects of particle pollution on premature mortality, hospital admissions, emergency department visits, doctor''s visits, respiratory and cardiac effects;"
- New studies "demonstrate that infants and children, especially asthmatic children, the elderly, and those with heart or lung disease are especially sensitive to the effects of fine particle pollution."
- New research addresses the major industry arguments against the standards and found other factors do not reduce or eliminate the adverse effects of particle pollution.
DeLucia also called on EPA to set a meaningful new "coarse" particle standard to prevent health damage from bigger, but still respirable, chunks of soot.
In addition to ALA, the health coalition includes the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and numerous environmental and public interest groups including the Sierra Club, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, National Environmental Trust and Clean Air Trust Education Fund.
by Virginia Foran