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If You Live Here, Then Stop Breathing

EPA lists areas violating daily air pollution requirements.

by on Oct.12, 2009


Particulate matter, which comes from factories, power plants and motor vehicles, can cause a number of serious health problems.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is designating 31 areas across the country as not meeting the daily standards for fine particle air pollution (PM 2.5), or particulate matter.

Particulate matter, which comes from power plants, factories and motor vehicles, can cause a number of serious health problems, including aggravated asthma, increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits, heart attacks and premature death.

Large areas of California, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Ohio, among others, are in violation of the standard. Click here for your state.

Particulate matters, or PM, are particles found in the air, including dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid drops. Particles remain in the air for long periods. Some particles are large or dark enough to be seen as soot or smoke, as in diesel truck exhaust. Others are so small that they can only be detected with an electron microscope.

Breathtaking News!

Breathtaking News!

Many man made and natural sources emit particulate matter directly or emit other pollutants that react in the atmosphere to form them. These solid and liquid particles come in a wide range of sizes.

Particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10) pose a health concern because they are inhaled and accumulate in the respiratory system. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) are “fine” particles, and are believed to pose the greatest health risks. Because of their small size (approximately 1/30th the average width of a human hair), fine particles can lodge deeply in your lungs.

EPA estimates that about one out of every three people in the United States is at a higher risk of experiencing PM2.5 related health problems. One group at high risk is active children because they often spend a lot of time playing outdoors and their bodies are still developing. In addition, oftentimes the elderly population is at risk. People of all ages who are active outdoors are at increased risk because, during physical activity, PM2.5 penetrates deeper into the parts of the lungs that are more vulnerable to injury.


EPA Releases National Assessment of Toxic Air Pollutants. All Americans Face Unacceptable Risks. Diesel Exhaust Cancer Hazard is Not Addressed?

The latest estimates of health risks from breathing toxic air in the United States are based on 2002 data. Can we do better?

by on Jun.24, 2009

2002 NATA Cancer Risk

EPA estimates that all 285 million U.S. residents have increased cancer risk at unacceptable levels. Move to North Dakota? Click on map to enlarge.

The wheels of government turn ever so slowly. The Environmental Protection Agency has just released the latest version of what it calls “a state-of-the-science tool” that estimates health risks from breathing air toxics in the United States.

The National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA), based on 2002 air emissions data, helps federal, state, local and tribal governments identify areas and specific pollutants for further evaluation to understand risks they may pose.

The EPA estimates that all 285 million U.S. residents have an increased cancer risk of greater than ten in a million from exposure to air toxics. The average cancer risk, based on 2002 pollution levels, is 36 per million. Levels above a 100-in-a-million risk are “generally unacceptable.”  And that includes two million Americans.

This means that, on average, approximately 1 in every 27,000 people would contract cancer as a result of breathing air toxics from outdoor sources, if they were exposed to 2002 emission levels over the course of their lifetime. What has happened since then is not covered in the study.

EPA says that air toxics are of concern because they are known to, or are suspected of, causing cancer and other serious health problems, including birth defects. The report assessed 80 air toxics, plus diesel particulate matter from stationary sources and from mobile sources such as cars, trucks, buses and construction equipment.

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The latest study avoids dealing with a critical policy issue regarding diesel engines — whether diesel exhaust particulate matter causes cancer — at the very time car and policy makers are trying to figure out how to decrease CO2 emissions and increase fuel economy.