The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it is tightening standards for soot pollution for the first time in over a decade, as reported by Reuters on January 6. Soot, also known as particulate matter, is a type of air pollution made up of tiny particles that can be inhaled into the lungs and cause health problems. It can be produced through the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, and is a byproduct of various industrial processes. The EPA’s new standards will limit the amount of fine particulate matter allowed in the air to 12 micrograms per cubic meter, down from the previous limit of 13 micrograms. The agency also announced that it will retain the current standards for larger particulate matter.
The new standards will take effect in 2023 and are expected to prevent thousands of premature deaths and cases of heart and lung disease each year. The move has been praised by public health advocates but criticized by some industry groups who argue that the stricter standards will be costly to implement. However, the EPA estimates that the benefits of the new standards will far outweigh the costs, with up to USD4 in health benefits for every USD1 invested in meeting the new standards. The agency also pointed out that many parts of the country are already meeting the new standards, so the impact on industry should be minimal. In addition to its negative impacts on human health, soot pollution can also have harmful effects on the environment, including damage to crops, forests, and bodies of water.