A voluntary clean air program to assist communities in reducing air pollution has been launched in the USA by its Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The ‘PM Advance’ programme has been developed to encourage states and local governments in the US to develop strategies to meet and maintain the recently updated fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
Although federal rules are expected to ensure that most areas meet the new standards, areas can voluntarily participate in the program to help them remain in attainment.
Communities or bodies participating in the program will need to commit to taking specific steps to reduce fine particle pollution, such as a school bus retrofit programme or an air quality action day programme. The EPA will then supply support such as technical advice and outreach information.
The EPA is also encouraging communities to adopt measures to reduce PM, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide pollutants which are currently being used in areas such as Savannah in Georgia, Tulsa in Oklahoma and Austin in Texas. A list of these measures, such as alternative fuel programmes and restrictions on open burning, and where they have been voluntarily implemented can be viewed on the EPA website.
National PM standards in the US
On December 14, 2012, EPA updated the national air quality standards for PM 2.5 by revising the annual standard to 12 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3). Previously updated in 1997, the EPA estimates that the health benefits of the revised standard will range from $4 billion to over $9 billion each year.
The US standards for PM are more stringent on than those in place in Europe. The European Union currently sets limits on PM 2.5 for member states at 20 micrograms per cubic metre in urban areas by 2015, and at 25 micrograms per cubic metre by 2015.
Survey results of more than 25,500 European citizens published last week (January 8) by the European Commission found that almost 80% believe stricter EU measures are needed to tackle air quality (see airqualitynews.com story).
Forms of PM 2.5 such as soot or black carbon can penetrate deeper into the lungs than PM 10 sized particles and are linked to a variety of health problems, including premature death, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children.
More information on the PM Advance program can be found on the EPA website.