SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today condemned the Trump Administration’s announcement of a final rule leaving the current National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter pollution unchanged – instead of strengthening them as a multi-state coalition urged in July and November. Particulate matter (PM2.5) is a pollutant emitted from a variety of sources including vehicles, factories, and construction sites. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) own science – which underestimates the risk of particulate matter pollution – shows that the number of deaths from particulate matter emissions ranges from 16,000 to 17,000 annually. In addition to premature mortality, particulate matter is linked to many serious public health problems including cardiovascular disease, respiratory impacts, and cancer.
“On its way out the door, the Trump Administration has refused to strengthen standards regulating particulate matter pollution despite a plethora of evidence showing its damaging effects on public health, particularly when coupled with a deadly respiratory pandemic,” said Attorney General Becerra. “It’s despicable. Across the country, our relatives and neighbors in low-income communities are bearing the brunt of particulate matter pollution and the resulting health consequences. Today, the Trump Administration's callous disregard for their lives is on full display."
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 on these conclusions. Additionally, multiple studies – highlighted in the July and November comment letters submitted by state attorneys general – have found links between mortality from COVID-19 and particulate matter exposure.