Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a bold move forward to protect people from one of the most harmful air pollutants – Particulate Matter 2.5 or soot. The new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for the annual level of PM2.5 allowed in a region has been reduced from 12 micrograms per cubic meter to a more protective standard of 9 micrograms per cubic meter. According to the EPA, the Houston Area will be in non-attainment of this new standard starting immediately.
“We here at Air Alliance Houston applaud and celebrate this change,” says Jennifer Hadayia, Executive Director, “Houstonians have been forced to breathe harmful soot pollution for too long from too many sources, such as the sprawling oil and petrochemical complexes, rock crushers like the one proposed across from LBJ Hospital and from freeway expansions like the proposed new Hardy Highway. This new standard will finally force a hard look at local measures to protect our health. I have no doubt that this change will improve health and save lives.”
The EPA estimates that the new standard will prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths nationally. In Houston, health harms prevented by this new standard will occur the most in communities of color, where PM2.5 pollution has been the most prevalent for decades. A recent national analysis of PM2.5 data ranked Houston as the 6th worst hotspot for PM2.5 in the country. The findings also showed that Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in Houston were exposed to the highest concentrations of PM2.5.
The EPA made this decision using well-known data on the health harms of soot, despite severe opposition from industry. It is true that an even lower standard would have been more protective for human health and a new 24-hour standard to protect against short-term soot pollution spikes is also needed. However, this is a long-overdue move in the right direction. Read our official comment letter here.
AAH will continue to work with partners and community members to protect Houstonians from soot pollution. You can join our campaigns for cleaner air at airalliancehouston.org.
Media contact: Riikka Pohjankoski, [email protected], 713.589.7079
About Air Alliance Houston
Air Alliance Houston is a non-profit organization working to reduce the public health impacts of air pollution and advance environmental justice through applied research, education, and advocacy. For more information and resources, please visit www.airalliancehouston.org.