EPA Proposal Seeks to Reduce Air Pollution

Daniel Perodin, Staff Writer

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new rule that would limit the contamination level of air. The rule would reduce the average annual amount of fine particle pollution from 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air to a range of nine to 10 micrograms per year. 

Fine particle pollution, known scientifically as PM 2.5,  or colloquially soot, is caused by the burning of fossil fuels and wood. Exposure to this type of air pollution is linked to a variety of health problems, including respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer. The proposed rule only applies to the yearly limit of fine particulate matter, whereas the 24-hour limit has remained the same. 

The EPA’s proposal will thoroughly address concerns related to scientific studies that have been published since the last update to the NAAQS in 2012. It is important that our government continues to revise environmental standards when new research is published, as outdated regulations do not protect public safety as well as new regulations backed by more recent research would. The proposal to protect the public from fine particle pollution would benefit both the health of Americans and the economic sectors related to the healthcare industry,” Miami Palmetto Senior High School senior and National Science Honor Society member Alessandra Masi said.

Many believe that the proposal does not sufficiently protect the public from air pollution. The proposed limit is still lenient compared to the World Health Organization’s recommendation of five micrograms per cubic meter of air. The American Lung Association stated that the EPA’s proposal is not enough to ensure American safety from harmful air contaminants.  

To reduce air pollution and mitigate its negative effects, the government should continue working with scientists to improve regulations that help reduce emissions of particulate matter. Furthermore, utilizing clean energy sources like solar, wind and hydropower would reduce the carbon emissions associated with burning gasoline, coal or wood. These standards will lower pollution which helps protect communities. Further, regulating corporate emissions from factories and transportation would drastically improve air quality as the majority of emissions are released by corporations,” Masi said.

In South Florida, air pollution has had damaging impacts. Traffic caused by car-dependent urban areas and fires in the Everglades negatively affect the region’s air quality.

Ground-level ozone is a problem in South Florida, due to its heavy traffic and high amounts of sunlight. This leads to respiratory and cardiovascular health problems in people exposed to the pollution. Further, due to population and industry, there is methane, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide pollution. These are all either direct or indirect greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change. The effects of this are felt everywhere in South Florida, from the increase in temperatures to sea level rise and even coral bleaching,” Masi said.

Since government regulations do not protect clean air to scientific standards, individuals are left questioning what they can do to take matters into their own hands. Masi suggests starting with small changes to one’s lifestyle and staying conscious of how one’s choices affect the environment.

To tackle air pollution in their communities, people can reduce the amount they drive, take the bus, carpool or opt for vehicles with higher fuel economies. Additionally, reducing single-use plastics decreases the amount of plastic that is eventually burned, a process that releases toxic gasses. Lastly, buying local produce and eating less meat helps to reduce pollution associated with those industries,” Masi said.

The EPA’s proposal is expected to become an official regulation in the spring of this year. The proposal shows a shift from the Trump administration’s approach to environmental policy. Under Trump, the EPA did not impose stricter regulations regarding air quality, despite evidence showing that it could save lives. It remains uncertain if the Biden administration can make a lasting impact on American environmental protections, but stricter air quality limits are a step in a different direction from previous leadership.