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Uncovering America's methamphetamine history; PA Early Intervention programs vital for child development; measuring long-term impact of the O.J. Simpson trial on media literacy.

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President Biden's name could be left off the ballot in Alabama and Ohio, the Justice Dept. mandates background checks for gun show purchases, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds moves to allow state police to arrest undocumented migrants.

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Housing advocates fear rural low-income folks who live in aging USDA housing could be forced out, small towns are eligible for grants to enhance civic participation, and North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues.

EPA Finalizing New Air Quality Rule

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Monday, March 27, 2023   

The Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of finalizing a new rule to improve air quality in America. The proposal will lower the amount of fine particle pollution allowed in the air.

Fine particles, sometimes called soot, pose a danger as they can be inhaled deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems including premature death from heart and lung disease. Sources of fine particle pollution include vehicle exhaust, power plant emissions, and other industrial processes.

While neighborhoods close to industrial areas may have higher concentrations of fine particulate matter in the air, air quality monitoring has not been mandated in such communities as of now.

Leah Kelly, senior attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project, said it is about to change.

"The proposed rule also establishes a monitoring requirement for the first time," Kelly explained. "That air quality data can be captured in some of these communities. They're referred to as at-risk communities in the regulation. But I think that's a particularly helpful piece of the rule. "

The EPA is taking public comment on the new standard through Tuesday.

Where air quality monitors are placed is a key part of assessing the health risks to local communities. In 2015, the Environmental Integrity Project set up regulatory grade air quality monitors in the Curtis Bay neighborhood in South Baltimore. Curtis Bay is an industrialized community, but the closest state air monitor at the time was over four miles away.

Kelly pointed out their results showed how residents of Curtis Bay were exposed to worse air quality than more distant monitors were reporting.

"We did measure consistently higher levels of fine particles than the official monitors," Kelly reported. "We didn't have an extensively robust data set, but we thought that our results indicated support for our theory, which was that community is subject to higher pollution levels."

The EPA said the current particulate matter standard of 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air is too high to protect public health. The proposed rule will lower the standard to a level between nine and 10 micrograms per cubic meter. Kelly noted studies showed a direct correlation between the amount of particulate matter in the air and health.

"Multiple studies have shown that there's approximately a linear relationship between exposure to fine particles and these adverse health effects," Kelly stressed.


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