Consortium Statement On EPA Soot Pollution Standard

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposal in January of 2023 to update and strengthen standards to protect the public from the harmful effects of soot. 

Below is a statement from the Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health, which can be attributed to Dr. Lisa Patel, Executive Director. The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health brings together 46 medical societies to protect all people from the devastating health impacts of climate change and climate-related pollutants. The Consortium represents over 700,000 physicians across the U.S.

“We recommend the proposed EPA soot pollution standard be strengthened beyond its current proposal to best protect the health of all Americans, especially children and pregnant people who are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution.

The current proposed standard does not go nearly far enough in addressing particulate matter pollution and fails to meet the recommendations outlined by the agency’s own scientific advisory panel.

Practicing physicians see the health harms of soot, often emitted by industry manufacturing and vehicle emissions, play out in their practice in myriad ways. We see illnesses like asthma, heart attacks, premature birth, and even dementia increase in frequency as a result of exposure to high levels of soot. 

And the evidence is growing. New evidence shows that children are exposed to air pollution before they even take their first breath: exposure to particulate matter starts in utero, with PM2.5 pollution crossing the placenta into the growing fetus. Beyond that, the first five years of a child’s life are the most important for their lung development, and early exposure to PM2.5 pollution places children at higher risk for diseases like asthma, which is currently the most common chronic disease of childhood.

This is also an environmental justice issue. A 2021 EPA study found communities of color are more likely to be exposed to soot pollution from nearly every major source, including power plants, vehicles, and industrial manufacturing. Hispanic people are 25% more likely to die of particulate matter exposure than white residents. Black residents are three times more likely to die as a result of this exposure. We know that the difference in exposure is due to discriminatory policies which have forced communities of color into areas of industrial manufacturing. This increases their exposure to pollution. Strengthening the standards for soot is not just a matter of pollution, but one of correcting a historical legacy of environmental injustice.

The more we learn about soot, the more we understand that there is no “safe” level of exposure. The more stringent standards we set, the healthier we will be.

We call for stronger standards to be set and met. Specifically, we want to see no more than 8 mcg/m3 annually, and 25 mcg/m3 daily. Strengthening these regulations for soot will protect our communities, better protect children’s health over their life course, and redress historic injustices.”

To send your own letter to Administrator Regan asking for stronger standards, click here. As a health professional, your voice is essential.