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Particle Civics

Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Particle Civics

How Cleaner Air in California Will Save Lives & Save Money

View and Download the report here: Particle Civics

Airborne soot and dust, technically known as particulate air pollution, causes or contributes to the deaths of more Californians than car accidents, murder and AIDS combined. State health officials are proposing new air pollution rules that could save or extend more than 6,500 lives a year, but the proposal faces strong and well-financed opposition from major oil companies and automakers.

In California, respiratory illnesses caused or made worse by airborne particulate matter (PM) are responsible for 9,300 deaths, 16,000 hospital visits, 600,000 asthma attacks and five million lost work days each year. By saving lives and preventing illnesses, tougher standards could save more than half a billion dollars a year.

In recent years, hundreds of studies worldwide have shown that PM pollution kills people. Both short- and long-term exposure to particulate pollution at levels lower than the levels currently experienced by millions of California residents can cause death. The proposed new PM standards are the first new regulations developed in response to a landmark 1999 state law requiring that air pollution standards must be adequate to protect children’s health. Statewide, total PM emissions are on the rise, and the great majority of Californians are exposed to potentially harmful levels. The worst particulate pollution in the state is found in Imperial County. But far more Californians are affected by the severe problems in the South Coast Air Basin, covering greater Los Angeles, which has the highest PM levels of any U.S. metro area, and the eight-county San Joaquin Valley, which is among the six worst areas in the nation. EWG estimates that the proposed new standards could save more than 4,200 lives a year in the South Coast Air Basin, and more than 800 lives a year in the San Joaquin Valley.

EWG urges the Air Resources Board to resist pressure from polluters and adopt the PM standards recommended by state scientists. Exemptions for agriculture should be eliminated. To further protect children and other sensitive populations, ARB should also set eight-hour PM standards, as it has for ozone. Finally, the state PM standards must be more rigorously enforced.

View and Download the report here: Particle Civics

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