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Experts: New Rule Protects Ohioans from Dangerous Soot

PHOTO: The EPA has a Dec. 14 deadline to rule on new, stronger standards on soot pollution. Courtesy of Chris Jordan-Bloch, Earthjustice.
PHOTO: The EPA has a Dec. 14 deadline to rule on new, stronger standards on soot pollution. Courtesy of Chris Jordan-Bloch, Earthjustice.
December 11, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Some experts say it's time for the EPA to finish the job and finalize new standards to protect Ohioans from dangerous soot pollution. Particle pollution, or soot, is produced from sources such as tailpipes and power plants, and long-term exposure has been linked to chronic respiratory illnesses as well as heart disease and stroke.

The director of the Respiratory Care Training Program at the University of Toledo, Craig Black, says these microscopic particles are easily inhaled deep into the lungs.

"It takes them out of the air sac and sequesters them into area between the area between air sacs and the blood vessels, and that's where they sit, for the rest of your life. That causes inflammation, irritation and eventually leads to destruction of the lung tissue at the microscopic level."

The EPA has proposed tightening the annual exposure to fine-particle soot from 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air to between 12 and 13 micrograms. Groups including Earthjustice and the American Lung Association are calling for an even stronger standard of 11 micrograms that they say would save as many as 35,000 lives a year.

The president of Earthjustice, Trip Van Noppen, says the effects of soot pollution are particularly concentrated in states like Ohio, where there are a lot of coal-burning power plants.

"In Ohio, the places with the highest levels of particulate or soot pollution are Cleveland and Cincinnati. And this standard would accelerate the efforts of the state of Ohio to clean up that air and make those standards more enforceable."

Opponents of the stricter soot rule say the expense outweighs the benefits to public health. But Van Noppen and others counter that the standard will help lower medical costs and result in fewer deaths. He adds that polling has shown the majority of Americans want a stronger standard.

"People everywhere strongly support cleaning up the air and reducing the health problems that are caused by dirty air, even understanding that there may be some difficult economic adjustments or some costs incurred in having cleaner power plants or cleaner factories."

The EPA is under a court-ordered deadline this Friday, Dec. 14, to set its final rule.

Results of the polling mentioned are available at

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH