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EPA Strengthens Soot Standard, Saving Thousands of Lives and Billions of Dollars

Washington, D.C. -- Today, the EPA released updated National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter (PM2.5), taking a positive and long-awaited step toward addressing a dangerous and deadly air pollutant responsible for over 100,000 deaths in the United States every year. 

EPA’s final air quality standards for PM2.5, also known as soot, lower the annual standards from 12 mcg/m3 to 9 mcg/m3, and will prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths and 290,000 lost workdays per year while bringing as much as $46 billion in net health benefits in 2032, when the standards are in full effect. 

The final standards do not strengthen the 24-hour standard, which is critical for protecting against dangerous short-term spikes in air pollution and provides the basis for the air quality index that millions use to determine the quality of the air they breathe on any given day.

EPA will now determine areas of the country that do not meet the new standard, and will release determinations within two years. States that do not meet the new standards will then have 18 months to develop and submit plans to comply. 

Evidence shows exposure to soot pollution increases the risk of asthma, heart attacks, stroke, cancer, and premature death. 63 million people in the United States experience unhealthy spikes in daily soot pollution, and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to higher-than-average levels of this dangerous pollutant.

In response, Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous released the following statement:

“We’re glad to see the Biden Administration answered the call to reduce harmful soot pollution. The decision to strengthen the annual particulate matter standards is more than just policy; it's about securing clean and safe air for our families and communities. It's about keeping kids in school, and protecting ourselves and our neighbors from the very real risks of asthma, heart attacks, and premature death. 

“It’s shameful that, in the face of such clear and compelling evidence of the public health and economic benefits of stronger soot standards, big polluters and their allies in Washington do everything in their power to undermine these commonsense air pollution standards. Their resistance is a stark reminder that the fight for clean air and a healthier future is far from over, and we will continue working to ensure the benefits of these stronger air pollution standards reach the communities that need them most.”

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit


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