The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday proposed a rule that would strengthen federal limits on industrial soot, one of the country’s most deadly air pollutants that disproportionately impacts the health of low-income and minority communities.
The proposal is the latest action by the Biden administration to better address environmental justice and air pollution. Research shows that exposure to particulate matter, known as PM 2.5, leads to heart attacks, asthma attacks and premature death. Studies have also linked long-term exposure to soot with higher rates of death from Covid-19.
Communities of color are systematically exposed to higher levels of soot and other air pollutants as they are more likely to be located near highways, oil and gas wells, and other industrial sources.
The EPA proposal seeks to limit the pollution of industrial fine soot particles — which measure less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter — from the current annual level of 12 micrograms per cubic meter to a level between 9 and 10 micrograms per cubic meter, which the EPA said aligns with the latest health data and scientific evidence. However, officials said they are also considering public comment on an annual level as low as 8 micrograms per cubic meter and as high as 11 micrograms per cubic meter.