On Feb. 7, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strengthened its annual health-based national ambient air quality standard for fine particulate matter (PM2.5), also known as soot, from a level of 12 micrograms per cubic meter to 9 micrograms per cubic meter. According to the EPA, the updated standard will save lives — preventing up to 4,500 premature deaths and 290,000 lost workdays, yielding up to $46 billion in net health benefits in 2032, and for every $1 spent from this action, there could be as much as $77 in human health benefits in 2032.
In a press release, the EPA states the updated standard is based on the best available science, as required by the Clean Air Act. This includes scientific evidence, technical information, recommendations from the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and public comments on the 2023 proposed standard. The EPA says it carefully considered extensive public input as it determined the final standards. The agency held a virtual public hearing and received about 700,000 written comments.
The agency believes the updated standard will bolster the U.S. economy by deploying billions of dollars and creating good-paying jobs across the transition to cleaner technologies. Since 2000, PM2.5 concentrations in the outdoor air have decreased by 42% while the U.S. Gross Domestic Product increased by 52% during that time.
See more information on the final standard at Final Reconsideration of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter.