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EPA issues list of Midwest counties it plans to name as not meeting new, health-based soot standard

Release Date: 08/19/2008
Contact Information: William Omohundro, 312-353-8254, omohundro.william@epa.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
No. 08-OPA131

CHICAGO (Aug. 19, 2008 ) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 today issued a list of 76 counties that it plans to name as not meeting the new, health-based 24-hour outdoor air quality standard for fine particles (soot). Counties that do not meet national outdoor air quality standards are called nonattainment areas.

Five of Region 5's six states have counties on the list. They are: Illinois with 14 counties, Indiana with 19 counties, Michigan with 9 counties, Ohio with 28 counties and Wisconsin with 6 counties. Minnesota has no counties on the list. Nationwide, EPA intends to name 215 counties in 25 states as not meeting the new standard. The names of the counties and additional information are at www.epa.gov/pmdesignations.

The new standard is designed to protect the public from exposure to these tiny particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller. By comparison, a human hair is about 70 microns in diameter. The new 24-hour outdoor standard is 35 micrograms per cubic meter. The old 24-hour standard was 65 micrograms per cubic meter.

EPA Regional Administrator Lynn Buhl sent letters today to the governors of the six regional states notifying them of EPA's designation plans.

"Work to meet the new standard has already begun," Buhl said. "EPA has taken steps to reduce fine particle pollution across the country, in particular the National Clean Diesel Campaign. We expect this program, which promotes the use of cleaner diesel technology, fuels and improved vehicle operation among our state, local, non-profit and private sector partners, to reduce emissions from highway, non-road and stationary engines. EPA Region 5 is participating in the national campaign through its Midwest Clean Diesel Initiative."

EPA is seeking comments from states on the list of counties that it plans to designate as having or contributing to this air quality problem. EPA also plans to open a 30-day public comment period on its intended designations. It intends to make final designation decisions by Dec. 18. Information on how to make comments on the designations will be published in the Federal Register.

Fine particles have been associated with a range of serious adverse health effects, including aggravation of lung disease, asthma attacks and heart problems. EPA believes that airborne fine particles cause tens of thousands of premature deaths across the United States each year. In addition, exposure to them results in tens of thousands of hospitalizations as well as millions of sick days and doctor visits.

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