Attorney General Becerra Calls On Trump Administration to Strengthen Ambient Standards as New Studies Show Additional Health Hazards of Particulate Matter Pollution

Friday, November 20, 2020
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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today, as part of a multistate coalition, sent a comment letter calling on the Trump Administration to reopen its review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter pollution to consider new science that further confirms that the current standards are not adequate to protect public health. It is already well established that particulate matter pollution is linked to premature mortality and many serious public health problems including cardiovascular disease, respiratory impacts, and cancer. In the five months since the coalition submitted comments urging the Trump Administration to strengthen the standards, scientists have published additional studies that further demonstrate the need to reduce exposure to particulate matter pollution, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Study after study has shown the dangers of particulate matter pollution, particularly to our most vulnerable populations,” said Attorney General Becerra. “As COVID-19 continues to spread, the need to strengthen these standards is all the more urgent – any other decision will cost lives. We call on the Trump Administration, once again, to heed the science.”

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to set NAAQS for several pollutants including particulate matter. The standards are required to be set at a level that protects public health, safety, and welfare. The EPA is then required to review the standards once every five years and revise them if new information shows that the existing standards are inadequate. The EPA’s regulations have reduced annual concentrations of PM2.5 by 39 percent between 2000 and 2018. Nevertheless, the science shows that more protection is necessary. Since the EPA’s last review, the new science has made clear that exposure to particulate matter causes grievous health impacts, even at levels below the current standards. The EPA’s own staff concurred with these conclusions. 

In today’s comment letter, the coalition highlights new studies that further compel the EPA to strengthen NAAQS for particulate matter pollution. A recent long-term study on the effects of particulate matter on neurological disorders in older Americans found an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and related dementias based on long-term exposure to particulate matter, even at levels lower than the current national standards. Multiple studies published since June have found links between increased mortality from COVID-19 and particulate matter exposure. As the COVID-19 pandemic remains unchecked, it is more urgent than ever that the EPA set standards that protect lungs and decrease mortality from respiratory diseases. Not only is action necessary to protect those battling COVID-19, but also to protect survivors of the disease that suffer from long-term health consequences. 

Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington in filing the supplemental comment letter.

A copy of the comment letter can be found here.

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