Soot standard would improve our air, save lives

Discussion on health consequences of air particulates

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Soot standard would improve our air, save lives

Postby Wilberforce » Fri Nov 16, 2012 10:09 pm

Posted November 16, 2012, 3:41 pm MT
Soot standard would improve our air, save lives

By Curt Huber
Guest Commentary

For many of us, someone we know and love is living with lung disease. Perhaps it’s a grandmother with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or a child with asthma.

For them, air pollution, including fine particles or soot, makes breathing even more difficult. On days when air quality is poor, those with COPD may need supplemental oxygen. People with asthma may need to take extra medicine and stay indoors. Bad air days can send those with lung disease to emergency rooms. In Colorado, where our residents value a high quality of life in the outdoor environment, there are days in some of our communities when it’s hard to catch a breath.

A long-awaited proposal from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would provide some much-needed relief by setting stronger limits on airborne particles, or “soot.” The soot health standards are supposed to be set at a level that protects public health, with an adequate margin for safety.

Particle pollution — a highly toxic blend of soot, metals, acids, dirt and aerosols — can kill. Sources of particle pollution include diesel exhaust, wood smoke and coal-fired power plants. Multiple, long-term, multicity studies conducted in the U.S. and internationally give some of the strongest evidence that particle pollution can shorten life.

Studies show that even modest spikes in soot levels can send children, older adults, people with diabetes and those with lung and heart diseases to the emergency room or hospital. We now have ample, well-vetted scientific evidence that confirms thousands of deaths, not to mention heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks could be prevented every year if the standards were strengthened.

Children especially need EPA’s protection, as their lungs are still developing and will not stop growing until they reach early adulthood. Such lung development can be stunted by poor air quality, which can cause a lifetime of respiratory ailments.

Others paying a higher physical cost for breathing soot pollution are lower-income families. They frequently live in communities or work where air pollution, often from nearby smokestacks or crowded freeways, exceeds safe levels. A more protective standard will ensure that the sources that pollute their homes will have to clean up.

The 2011 report “Sick of Soot” concluded that setting an annual soot standard of 11 mcg/m3 and a daily standard of 25 mcg/m3, would lead to the cleanup of sources of soot and would annually prevent 35,700 premature deaths. Setting the standards at these levels would also prevent 1.4 million asthma attacks, and more than 23,000 emergency room and hospital visits.

As we have seen since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, big polluters will try to thwart any healthy air advances that may require them to clean up. Polluters argued at hearings this summer that the evidence is lacking and that a little soot is not that big of a deal saying a body can handle it. The fact is, we have roughly 10,000 studies all pointing to the need for more protection from particle pollution and some of that evidence points out that soot kills too many people each year.

This Fall the Obama administration has a chance to set strong soot standards and save lives.

However, without strong public support, the present, unhealthy standards will remain and the people we know who have lung disease, and millions more like them, will continue to fight for air.

Curt Huber is the executive director of the American Lung Association in Colorado.

source ... ves/29175/
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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