Do you like to breathe? Then you’ll like the new EPA standards on soot particles

  • Published on December 13th, 2012

EPA and sierra club's beyond coal campaign fight deadly sootThe problem with allowing lots of soot particles in the air? They end up in your lungs. And in kids lungs.

That’s why the EPA came down today with new standards on soot (or “small particulate matter”).

Why is soot a big deal? Mary Ann Hitt of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign explains:

Soot particles are released into the air by burning dirty fuels like coal. Soot is composed of dangerous metals and chemicals, and the particles are so small — as tiny as 1/30th the width of a human hair — that they can lodge deep within the lungs and move into our blood streams, carrying with them toxic pollutants like arsenic and lead. Even at very low levels, soot is harmful to human health and can cause heart attacks, strokes, asthma attacks, cancer, developmental and reproductive harm, and even premature death.

So, while these new standards will cost coal-burning power companies a few more dollars, they’ll SAVE a ton:

  • They’ll prevent approximately 15,000 premature deaths every year.
  • They’ll save $118 billion in health care costs every year. Do the math: That means that over the ten year time frame that the budget deficit cutters are looking at, this will save more than $1 trillion…. and a good chunk of that will be saved on medicare and medicaid.

The right wing will complain, as they always do, that the new standards cost money and will cost jobs.

But, as said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said at the  Clean Air Act’s 40th anniversary, ‘The total benefits of the Clean Air Act amount to more than 40 times the costs of regulation. For every dollar we have spent, we get more than $40 of benefits in return.’

And I’ll repeat something that I’ve been saying for years, and really needs to be a meme: “If your business model requires that you take a dump on my living room carpet every day, then you need to change your business model. Because that’s not okay.”

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.
  • Vehicle exhaust does NOT contain metals. [At least not in any significant amount.] Diesel exhaust can contain raw carbon, usually under full power before turbochargers come up to speed to supply the required air to burn the carbon. Diesel exhaust may contain sulfur if it is in the fuel. Gasoline powered vehicles should never emit raw carbon. If they do, something is wrong. Coal plants do emit raw carbon along with toxic metals and other chemicals such as sulfur and arsenic that were in the coal.