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Release Date: 11/27/1996
Contact Information: Bill Glenn, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1589

    Based on evidence of harm to human health and the environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today proposed new national air quality standards for particulate matter (soot) and ground-level ozone (smog).

     Because of the significance of the proposal, EPA will seek broad public comment on its recommended approach and on the need for any changes to the particulate matter and ozone proposal.  The purpose of the comment period is to reach out to all stakeholders in order to obtain the best information available for determining the appropriate final standards.

     "In the Clean Air Act, Congress required EPA to review and incorporate the best available science into public health standards to protect Americans from air pollution," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. "The EPA proposal would provide new protection to nearly 133 million Americans, including 40 million children. We will use the very best science to do what is necessary to protect public health in common-sense, cost-effective ways."

     "Here in the West, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to Phoenix, we have some of the country's most challenging air quality problems," said Felicia Marcus, U.S. EPA regional adminstrator for the western region. "We've learned from the overwhelming scientific evidence that we must do even more to protect our children, the elderly and others who are most susceptible to the health impacts of air pollution."

     Particulate matter (PM), or soot, comes largely from combustion from sources like power plants or large incinerators.  Ozone is primarily the haze of chemicals from car exhausts and smoke-stack emissions that shrouds many cities on hot summer days.

     EPA and a board of independent scientists have reviewed 86 PM-related human-health studies, covering millions of people, that showed harmful effects from breathing particles at the current standard.  The proposed standard, along with clean air programs already planned, would reduce premature deaths by 40,000 per year, and reduce serious respiratory problems in children by 250,000 cases per year.

     Another 185 of the latest ozone-related studies on human health also were reviewed. All of them showed harmful effects from ozone at the current standard, including more than 1.5 million incidences a year of significant respiratory problems, such as loss of lung capacity and exacerbation of both childhood and adult asthma.  In addition to threatening health, ozone and PM can damage agricultural crops, and diminish visibility in national parks, in some cases by as much as 77 percent.
     Browner said, "EPA has based its proposal on a thorough review of the best available science.  We are now hoping to hear from a wide range of the American people, from scientists and environmentalists to industry experts, small business owners, doctors and parents, to receive the broadest possible public comment and input on this important issue."
     The PM standard currently calls for regulation of particles the size of 10 microns or smaller (PM-10) in concentrations of 50 micrograms per cubic meter annually and 150 micrograms per cubic meter daily.  The proposed PM standard calls for 2.5 microns or smaller (PM 2.5) in concentrations of 15 micrograms per cubic meter annually and 50 micrograms per cubic meter daily.  EPA today also proposed maintaining the current standards for PM-10 so that larger, coarse particles would continue to be regulated. The current ozone standard is .12 parts per million measured over one hour.  EPA's proposed standard calls for .08 parts per million measured over eight hours.  EPA also is seeking comment on several other options, including an ozone concentration of .09 parts per million measured over eight hours, as well as a range of ozone concentrations from .07 parts per million measured over eight hours to .12 parts per million measured over one hour, the current standard.  On both proposed standards, EPA has also spe
cified the way in which attainment of these standards would be measured.  

     EPA believes that the standards being proposed are consistent with the work of the independent scientists on the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee, which is part of EPA's long-standing Science Advisory Board.  EPA will be taking comment on the scientific evidence during the comment period.

      Browner today also expanded the membership and the mandate of an implementation advisory committee, to ensure that any plans to carry out the standards will include the advice and participation of state and local governments, industry, small business and environmental groups in order to identify common-sense, cost-effective options for implementation of the standards.

     Plans to meet any finalized standards would be due in 2002 for PM, and in 2000 for ozone control strategies.  Deadlines for achieving full compliance would occur several years thereafter for both types of pollution.

     Congress specifically named six air pollutants under the Clean Air Act to be regulated by EPA's national air quality standards.  They are ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and lead.  Congress directed that such standards should be reviewed at least every five years by EPA to keep up with current science, and that proposals to revise them should be based solely upon the best current scientific opinion on public health effects, not economic impacts.  Since initially setting standards in the early 1970s, EPA has changed the standards only twice:  Once, in 1979, and once in 1987. During the Bush Administration, a decision was made not to review the current science regarding the health effects of ozone.

     There is a 60-day comment period on the proposal. Once a final regulation is issued in June 1997, it will be among the first major environmental rules reviewed by Congress under the new Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act.

     Today's action will appear soon in the Federal Register, but will be computer-accessible earlier through EPA's electronic bulletin board system, the Technology Transfer Network (TTN) at The TTN can be reached at 919-541-5742 (backup number for access problems is 919-541-5384). The notice will appear on the TTN's Clean Air Act Amendments Bulletin Board under "Recently Signed Rules." For further technical information, contact Jeff Clark of EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards at 919-541-5557.

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