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Western Resource Advocates Condemns Trump Administration Final Particulate Matter Pollution Rule

The Biden administration should protect public health and save lives by swiftly reversing this decision


Western Resource Advocates today condemned the Trump administration’s decision to keep National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter pollution – a dangerous air pollutant – at current levels. WRA urges the incoming Biden administration to prioritize reversing this decision and tightening the federal standard, which would reduce air pollution and save thousands of lives every year.

“This is yet another careless act by the Trump administration that disregards public health and well-being. However, it can quickly be undone by the Biden administration,” said Joro Walker, general counsel at Western Resource Advocates. “It’s reckless not to tighten this standard as Western communities grapple with air choked by wildfire smoke, pollutants such as ozone are increasing, and COVID-19 infections continue to rise and attack the lungs; the Biden administration should prioritize reversing it. By tightening the federal standard for particulate matter pollution, the EPA could protect our health and environment, and prevent thousands of premature deaths annually. This is especially important for protecting communities of color and low-income communities, which are disproportionately harmed by particulate matter pollution due to decades of environmentally racist policies.”

The Trump administration’s decision comes despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s own scientific study which found that the current annual standard for particulate matter pollution is associated with 45,000 deaths each year. The current annual standard for PM2.5 pollution is 12ug/m3. According to the EPA’s assessment, lowering the standard to 9 ug/m3 could save more than 12,000 lives per year nationwide.

The same science panel determined that the current short-term (24-hour) PM2.5 standard is associated with 3,000 deaths each year. Tightening the current standard of 35 ug/m3 to 30 ug/m3 would save as many as 540 lives each year. Importantly, focusing on the loss of lives does not account fully for all the other significant adverse health impacts that result from exposure to PM2.5, such as increases in hospitalizations, stroke and heart attacks, aggravated asthma, and developmental harms.

Further, the Trump administration’s decision is particularly dangerous given what we have learned during a global pandemic that attacks the respiratory system. Multiple national and international studies indicate that exposure to poor air quality increases the risks of COVID-19 infection and mortality. A Harvard University study found that someone who lives for decades in a county with high levels of fine particulate pollution is 8 percent more likely to die from COVID-19 than someone who lives in a region that has just one unit (one microgram per cubic meter) less of such pollution.

Cities across Western states struggle with high levels of particulate matter pollution, including Phoenix, AZ; Salt Lake City, UT; Las Vegas, NV; and Reno-Carson City, NV


Jamie Trafficanda, 720-763-3737,

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