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Weak Environmental Protection Agency Plan Would Leave 77 Million Americans Vulnerable To Deadly Pollution, Lung Association Warns


New York City, NY – September 13, 2006 – More than 77 million Americans could be left vulnerable to deadly particle pollution if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) follows through with a proposal to set weak public health standards for the pollutant, according to a new American Lung Association report.

By contrast, stronger new pollution standards supported by the Lung Association and other major medical and public health groups would protect 159 million people, the report concludes.

The report, Clean Air Decision 2006, was released as the EPA is about to announce a final decision on national air quality standards for particle pollution (soot), the most lethal of all air pollutants. It is produced by coal burning power plants, trucks, trains, traffic and other smokestack industries. The EPA is under a court order to announce a final decision on new standards by September 27.

“This is the most important public health decision the EPA will make this year. The decision will impact the health and lives of millions of people nationwide who currently breathe dirty, particulate-polluted air,” noted John L. Kirkwood, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Lung Association. “The EPA has a clear choice: Endorse strong new standards that will fully protect Americans from this deadly pollutant; or, the agency can continue to side with polluting industries and consign our citizens to years of choking pollution. We hope the EPA will make its decision based on science, not politics.”

Kirkwood explained that the public health standards “are the heart and lungs of the Clean Air Act.” They define the levels of air pollution that are safe for people to breathe. Every community in the nation must meet those standards through specific pollution cleanup programs such as controls on electric power plants.

The EPA last revised the particle standards in 1997. Since then, more than 2,000 peer-reviewed studies have been published on the health effects of particle pollution. The studies not only confirm earlier research that showed exposure to particle pollution causes sickness, hospital admissions and premature death, but that harm occurs even when pollution levels are well below current standards. People most vulnerable to particle pollution include children, senior citizens, and people with such chronic conditions as asthma, heart disease and diabetes.

The American Lung Association, the American Medical Association and many other health and medical groups have urged the EPA to set tougher standards for both short- and long-term exposure to particle pollution. EPA’s own staff scientists and science advisers also have concluded that the current standards are not adequate to protect people’s health.

Despite this overwhelming evidence, the EPA has proposed making no change in the standard that governs annual exposure to particle pollution. It did propose a slight adjustment in the standard that governs daily exposure to the pollutant, though a much weaker standard than others under consideration.

“Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the need for tougher standards both for long-term and short-term exposure to this deadly pollutant,” Janice Nolen, Lung Association Director of National Policy, declared.

In its report, the Lung Association analyzed the public health consequences of four different pairs of annual and daily standards, using EPA data from particle pollution monitors in counties nationwide from 2002-2004.

The report estimates the total number of people protected on the county, state and national levels under each of these pairings as well as the number of people protected on the state and national levels for eight sensitive groups: those under 18, those 65 and over, and those with pediatric asthma, adult asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease and diabetes.

To get a copy of the full Clean Air Decision 2006 report, go to the American Lung Association’s website at

About the American Lung Association
Beginning our second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Lung disease death rates continue to increase while other leading causes of death have declined. The American Lung Association funds vital research on the causes of and treatments for lung disease. With the generous support of the public, the American Lung Association is “Improving life, one breath at a time.” For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or log on to

Additional Resources:
* Clean Air Decision 2006:


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