U.S. Public Interest Research Group
January 19, 2006


Air Pollution Bill Could Make Situation Even Worse

By Emily Figdor

WASHINGTON - Ninety-six million Americans -- 32% of the population --
live in areas with unsafe levels of fine particle, or "soot,"
pollution, according to a new report released Jan. 19 by the U.S.
Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG). The report is a
comprehensive analysis of levels of fine particle pollution in the
U.S. in 2004, based on a survey of state environmental agencies.

"Soot pollution is a serious health risk. Children, senior citizens,
and even healthy adults suffer asthma attacks and other health
problems from soot pollution," said U.S. PIRG Clean Air Advocate Emily

Coal-fired power plants and diesel engines are the largest sources of
fine particle pollution.

Fine particle pollution is the nation’s deadliest air pollutant -- and
one of its most pervasive. Because of their small size, fine particles
can bypass the body’s natural defenses, such as coughing and sneezing,
and lodge deep within the lungs or even pass into the bloodstream,
causing serious respiratory and cardiovascular problems, such as
asthma attacks, heart attacks, and lung cancer. Fine particle
pollution cuts short the lives of tens of thousands of Americans each
year, according to EPA.

EPA estimates that particle pollution shortens the lives of its
victims by an average of 14 years.

The new report, called "Plagued by Pollution," is based on a U.S.
PIRG survey of the environmental agencies in all 50 states and DC. The
report looks at all of the instances in 2004 when pollution levels
exceeded EPA’s two health-based air quality standards for fine
particle pollution. EPA’s "annual" standard is based on how much fine
particle pollution is safe to breathe on a regular, everyday basis,
while EPA’s "24-hour" standard is based on how much fine particle
pollution is safe to breathe on any one day. Both types of exposures
are associated with illness and death.

Key findings for 2004 include the following:

** Fine particle pollution exceeded the annual and/or 24-hour health
standards in 55 large, mid-sized, and small metro areas in 21 states,
exposing 96 million people to this health threat.

** California, Pennsylvania, Utah, Georgia, and Ohio were the states
with the worst fine particle pollution.

** Among large metro areas, the Riverside (CA), Pittsburgh, Los
Angeles, Atlanta, and Cleveland metro areas ranked highest nationwide
for the worst chronic fine particle pollution. The top mid-sized metro
areas were the Bakersfield, Salt Lake City, Visalia-Porterville (CA),
Fresno, and Lancaster (PA) areas. And the top small metro areas were
the Hanford-Corcoran (CA), Macon, Weirton-Steubenville (WV-OH), Rome
(GA), and Hagerstown-Martinsburg (MD-WV) areas.

** The metro areas with the most dangerous spikes in fine particle
pollution included the Pittsburgh, Riverside, and Los Angeles areas
(large metro areas); the Salt Lake City, Provo-Orem (UT), and
Bakersfield areas (mid-sized metro areas); and Logan, a small
metropolitan area on the border of Utah and Idaho.

Senator Carper of Delaware plans to reintroduce his air pollution
bill, the Clean Air Planning Act, within the next few weeks.
Unfortunately, as drafted in 2003 (S.843), the bill would weaken or
eliminate critical Clean Air Act protections, including the New Source
Review (NSR) program, protections for parks and wilderness areas, and
the requirement that each and every power plant reduce its mercury
emissions to the maximum extent. Because the bill weakens facility-
specific requirements, individual power plants could increase their
fine particle pollution under the bill, further exacerbating this
already pervasive public health problem.

For instance, an analysis of data from EPA’s own consultants estimates
that eliminating the NSR program for existing power plants would be so
significant that it would cut short the lives of 70,000 Americans in
the next two decades. The NSR program requires aging power plants to
eventually install modern pollution controls.

"To protect public health, Senator Carper should substantially
strengthen his bill. Right now, it would make the problem worse and
too many Americans already suffer health problems from breathing
polluted air," said Figdor.

Emily Figdor, (202) 546-9707