Chair Castor Urges EPA to Strengthen Particulate Air Pollution Standards

May 20, 2020
Press Release
Trump Administration’s Push To Keep Current, Inadequate Standards Would Endanger Families

WASHINGTON (May 20, 2020) - On Wednesday, Chair Kathy Castor (D-FL) of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis expressed her strong opposition to the Trump administration's push to keep particulate air pollution standards at current, inadequate levels. Instead, she said, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must follow the science and strengthen these safeguards to ensure clean air for American families.

“The overwhelming weight of the science has demonstrated that air pollution not only damages the heart and lungs, but also increases the risk of premature birth, low-birth weight, diabetes, and cancer,” said Chair Castor during a public hearing on the EPA's particulate air pollution standards, which was held Wednesday morning via teleconference. “Now, on top of all that, Americans are battling an unprecedented pandemic. The coronavirus has upended our lives. And air pollution is making it worse, particularly for our neighbors who are at a higher risk.”

Particulate air pollution, or particulate matter (PM2.5), refers to fine, harmful particles that can be inhaled by humans and cause serious health problems. Most fine particulate air pollution comes from fuel combustion generated by automobiles, coal plants and oil refineries. 

“We know the harmful effects that particulate air pollution can have on vulnerable communities. It can increase the risk of heart attacks, trigger asthma episodes, and even lead to death,” Chair Castor said.

The EPA is tasked with protecting Americans from these pollutants by setting both an annual and a 24-hour standard for fine particles. But last month, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced a proposal to maintain these standards at levels that were set in 2012, instead of following the advice of experts who support strengthening them to protect public health.

“The science is clear: we need strong safeguards to protect public health. I strongly oppose the administration’s push to keep the particulate matter standards at the current level. Instead, I call on the EPA to strengthen these standards and uphold its mission to protect Americans from pollution,” said Chair Castor.

Under Wheeler's proposal, the annual standard for particulate matter would remain at 12 micrograms per cubic meter, and the 24-hour standard would remain at 35 micrograms per cubic meter. 

Chair Castor called on the EPA administrator to do more to protect families from these harmful particles, which can also cause harm to the nervous system. 

“Scientists say that, in order to protect all Americans, the EPA must strengthen the annual particulate matter standard to 8 micrograms per cubic meter, and strengthen the 24-hour standard to 25 micrograms per cubic meter. In fact, that is the recommendation of the American Lung Association,” said Chair Castor.

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116th Congress