Burning Issues


California Air Resources Board Proposes Air Quality Standards    for Fine Particles:  Backgrounder


California is in the midst of a review of its air quality standards for
particulate matter and sulfates, prompted by concerns over children's
health.  The review has important public health implications, not only for
California, but also nationally, because of the potential impact on the
ongoing EPA review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for
particulate matter.  The State has issued a draft staff report recommending
tightened standards for PM10 and establishment of new standards for fine
particles (PM2.5), which is being circulated for public comment and peer

Attaining the recommended standards will result in a reduction of an
estimated 6,500 cases of premature mortality per year, and reduce annual
hospitalizations by an estimated 600 for chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, 900 for pneumonia, 1,500 for cardiovascular disease, and 500 for
asthma.  Among children ages 7-14, attainment of the PM2.5 standard will
result in about 209,000 fewer days of lower respiratory symptoms per year.

"Taken together, the evidence to date suggests that exposure to PM is
likely to have a disproportionate effect on the elderly, and possibly on
children and infants." concludes the draft California staff paper.

"The consistency of results among scores of epidemiological studies
provides substantial evidentiary support for causality.  Several hundred
studies, conducted among different populations on five continents over
multiple time periods, have reported small, but consistently elevated risks
of daily mortality and diverse measures of morbidity (such as hospital
admissions and emergency department visits for cardiac and respiratory
causes, exacerbation of asthma, increased respiratory symptoms, restricted
activity days, school absenteeism, and decreased lung function," states the
draft report.

This backgrounder outlines the draft staff recommended standards, the
reaction of the environmental and public health community, and the timeline
for decision making with opportunities for public participation.

CARB Recommended Standards

The Air Resources Board (ARB) and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard
Assessment (OEHHA) are circulating a draft staff paper for public comment
and for peer review by the Air Quality Advisory Committee.  The initial
recommendations are to:

--Lower the current annual average standard for PM10 from 30 to 20
ug/m3.  Revise the averaging method to an annual arithmetic mean from the
current annual geometric mean.  (The federal standard is 50 ug/m3, 3 year
average of annual arithmetic mean).

--Retain the current 24-hour standard for PM10 at 50 ug/m3, not to be
exceeded.  (The federal standard is 150 ug/m3, 3 year average of 99th
percentile concentrations).

--Establish an annual average standard for PM2.5 of 12 ug/m3, annual
arithmetic mean.  This recommendation is based on "growing evidence from
epidemiological and toxicological studies of significant toxicity related
to this size fraction of PM.  (The federal standard is 15 ug/m3, 3 year
average of annual arithmetic mean concentrations, spatial averaging allowed).

--No 24-hour PM2.5 standard is recommended. (The federal standard is 65
ug/m3, 3 year average of 98th percentile concentrations).

--Retain the current 24-hour standard for sulfates of 25 ug/m3.  (There is
no federal standard).  This standard is currently attained in California.

In addition, the staff recommends review of the standards within five
years, an anti-degradation policy for areas that attain the standards, and
establishment of a goal of continued reductions of PM10 and PM2.5 over time.

They also propose updates to the PM10 monitoring method, adoption of the
Federal Reference Method, a filter-based instrument, for monitoring PM2.5,
and the addition of new continuous monitoring methods for PM.

Pages 173 to 188 of the draft staff report provide a detailed discussion of
the staff recommendations and their rationale for the proposed standards.

Public Health and Environmental Groups' Initial Response

Health and environmental organizations strongly support the establishment
of a stringent new annual average standard for PM2.5 and the tightening of
the annual average standard for PM10.  The annual average standards being
proposed for both PM2.5 and PM10 are significantly more stringent than the
federal EPA standards for these pollutants and will provide additional,
much-needed public health protections.  California's recommendation for
establishment of a 12 ug/m3 standard for PM2.5 will provide substantial
support for a stringent federal fine particle standard during the ongoing
EPA review.

The Achilles heel of the proposal is the failure to set a protective
24-hour standard for PM2.5.  The staff paper acknowledges that PM2.5
exposures have significant, short-term health impacts, including sickness
and death.  However, they propose to defer a decision on establishment of a
short-term PM2.5 standard until the next review.   Public health and
environmental organizations strongly favor establishment of a stringent
24-hour standard for PM2.5 now, given the dozens of studies demonstrating
adverse health effects ranging from respiratory symptoms to mortality
following exposure to elevated concentrations of particulate air
pollution.  An annual average standard is insufficient to protect against
spikes in concentrations of fine particle pollution, particularly from
combustions sources such as agricultural burning and wood stoves.

The draft report also fails to analyze the health protection opportunities
afforded by a short-term PM2.5 standard.

The Timeline for Decision Making and Public Participation

December 2000  Under a requirement of the Children's Environmental Health
Protection Act, the California Air Resources Board approved a report
recommending highest priority for the review of the California Ambient Air
Quality Standards for Particulate Matter and Sulfates, based on a finding
that significant harmful health effects may occur among both children and
adults when outdoor PM10 concentrations are at or near the current State
standards.  This report is available at: www.arb.ca.gov/ch/ceh/airstandards.htm

November 30, 2001:  Draft Staff Report of the Air Resources Board and the
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is released for public
comment. The report is available at
www.arb.ca.gov/research/aaqs/std-rs/std-rs.htm.  Hard copies may be
requested from Ms. Jacqueline Cummins at 916-445-0753.  Technical questions
about the review of the standards may be directed to:

Richard Bode
Chief, Health and Exposure Assessment Branch
Air Resources Board
Email: rbode@arb.ca.gov

*Dec. 3- Dec. 18, 2001:  ARB holds six public meetings in Oakland,
Sacramento, Bakersfield, Mira Loma, El Monte, and Huntington Park, to
present their proposals and to respond to public comments.  The revised
schedule for the workshops is available at:
<A HREF="Http://arbis.ca.gov/research/aaqs/std-rs/std-rs.htm">Http://arbis.ca.gov/research/aaqs/std-rs/std-rs.htm</A>

*December 31, 2001:  Written comments on the Staff Report and the recommend
standards are due. Comments may be sent to:
Dr. David Mazzera
Air Resources Board
Research Division
P.O. Box 2815
Sacramento, CA 95612-2815
Email:  dmazzera@arb.ca.gov
Phone:  916-445-9488
Fax:      916-322-4357

Deborah Shprentz
Consultant to the American Lung Association

Phone:  703-437-0959
    Fax:  703-437-6580
    Cell:  703-867-0959


1516 Park Glen Court
Reston, Virginia 20190

Burning Issues Comment: "California : Politics as usual : here is the flaw: --"No 24-hour PM2.5 standard is recommended. "

Burning Issues
Box 1045
Point Arena CA 95468
Tel: 707-882-3601
Email: [pm10mary at mcn dot org]

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