EPA Announces Tougher Standards for Deadly Soot Pollution

Air pollution coming from coal plant on the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin

Stronger limits expected to prevent 40 premature deaths in Wisconsin every year

Today the Environmental Protection Agency announced a finalized soot pollution standard that will save lives and slash air pollution in Wisconsin and across the country. The National Ambient Air Quality Standard for fine particulate matter (PM2.5), also known as the Soot Pollution Rule, regulates dangerous particle pollution, which often comes from power plants and other heavy industry. This move is an important step forward in protecting public health and clean air.

“Today’s action by the EPA will have huge public health impacts. Soot pollution is so dangerous, it is actually costing lives right now in our state,” says Clean Wisconsin Energy and Air Program Manager Ciaran Gallagher, PhD. “Clean Wisconsin’s analysis shows the new standard is expected to prevent 40 premature deaths in Wisconsin every year. We thank the Biden Administration for moving to address this public health threat.”

What is soot? Fine particulate matter air pollution, also known as soot, consists of tiny airborne particles that can penetrate deeply into the lungs, causing increased risk of asthma, heart attack, stroke and premature death. Gallagher notes that the burden of this type of dangerous air pollution does not fall equally.

“Here in Wisconsin, people of color are exposed to 26% more PM2.5 pollution than the statewide average, representing the third largest such disparity in the country,” she says.

With this update, EPA is tightening the standard for soot pollution from a level of 12 micrograms per cubic meter to 9 micrograms per cubic meter. According to EPA data, nationwide in 2032 this will prevent:

  • Up to 4,500 premature deaths;
  • 5,700 cases of new asthma onset and 800,000 cases of asthma symptoms;
  • 2,000 emergency room visits;
  • 290,000 lost workdays

The tougher standard will yield up to $46 billion in net health benefits nationwide in 2032 according to the EPA.

Clean Wisconsin is part of a national campaign advocating for stronger EPA standards for dangerous pollutants including mercury, methane, wastewater and other power plant pollution. Add your voice! Petition President Biden and EPA Administrator Regan to act boldly and swiftly to finalize and implement the strongest possible pollution standards by May of 2024. SIGN ON NOW