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EPA Determines that all Areas of U.S. Virgin Islands Meet New Fine Particle Air Pollution Standard

Release Date: 12/17/2004
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(#04189) NEW YORK - In a letter to the Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today agreed with the Territory’s assessment that all areas of the U.S. Virgin Islands meet EPA’s new, more stringent health-based fine particle standard. Fine particles, or PM 2.5, are 1/30th the size of a human hair and can lodge deeply in the lungs. They have been shown to cause an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 premature deaths, aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions, and contribute to cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks and arrhythmias.

“This is truly good news for the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Acting EPA Regional Administrator, Kathleen C. Callahan. “We have made progress making the air cleaner in the Virgin Islands and it is important that we continue that progress. EPA is providing critical national tools to continue the course toward clean air.”

EPA has decided to designate the entire U.S. Virgin Islands as attaining the fine particle standard after considering comments from the Territory and the public. The Agency will work closely with the Virgin Islands to ensure that the standard continues to be met and that progress will be made in even further reducing fine particle levels.

EPA has a comprehensive air pollution control strategy that will reduce PM 2.5 pollution throughout the entire country. The Agency has already put regulations into effect that are making gasoline-powered vehicles, diesel trucks and buses dramatically cleaner. Earlier this year, the Agency finalized regulations to clean up tailpipe emissions from nonroad diesels, such as construction and farm equipment.

EPA first adopted new standards to regulate PM 2.5 in 1997, and continued to regulate particles measuring 10 microns in diameter. The Agency also established a new, more protective standard for ground level ozone or smog. The progress in implementing these standards was hindered by litigation that was resolved when the Supreme Court upheld the standards. In 2002, all legal challenges were addressed, allowing EPA to move forward with putting the standards into action.

For more information about PM 2.5 pollution and today’s proposed designations, visit: http://www.epa.gov/pmdesignations