Sierra Club
Sierra Club Press Release

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December 14, 2012

Contact: Eitan Bencuya, 202-495-3047,

Sierra Club Applauds Finalized EPA Soot Standards

Updated, Stronger Safeguards Promise Cleaner Air and Will Save Lives


WASHINGTON D.C. -- Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new air quality standards for fine particulate matter, or soot. The EPA’s updated standards set the limit for safe concentrations of soot in the air at an annual level of 12 micrograms (one-millionth of a gram) per cubic meter and a daily level of 35 micrograms per cubic meter. These stronger soot protections will lead to cleaner, safer air nationwide and prevent approximately 15,000 premature deaths every year.

Additionally, these updated standards are expected to save $118 billion in health costs annually and will help ensure Americans are better informed when their local air quality reaches hazardous levels.

The EPA’s updated soot limits are a result of litigation filed by environmental and public health groups earlier this year, culminating in a federal court order requiring the EPA to issue updated standards for particle pollution. The standard takes into consideration the latest science and medical research, affirming that soot pollution must be limited because of its deadly health effects.

Soot particles are released into the air by burning dirty fuels like coal. Soot is composed of dangerous metals and chemicals, and the particles are so small -- as tiny as 1/30th the width of a human hair -- that they can lodge deep within the lungs and move into our blood streams. Even at very low levels, exposure to soot is harmful to human health and can cause heart attacks, strokes, asthma attacks, cancer, developmental and reproductive harm and even premature death.

The Sierra Club is committed to holding fossil fuel polluters accountable for pollution like soot, mercury, and carbon that threatens our health and our climate, and this new standard is an important step in the right direction.

In response, Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, issued the following statement:

“The Sierra Club applauds the Environmental Protection Agency for finalizing these crucial, life-saving protections. These updated limits will prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths every year and continue the Clean Air Act’s track record of cleaning up our nation’s air, avoiding pollution-related health costs, and protecting our children and families.

“We now stand ready to join the Administration in vigorously defending the stronger soot limits from Congressional attacks that would seek to roll back this victory for public health. We applaud the EPA for putting the health and safety of our children and families above polluter profits and corporate special interests.”



How Soot Kills