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Twelve Additional Areas now Meet National Air Quality Standards for Fine Particle Pollution

Release Date: 04/05/2005
Contact Information:


Contacts: John Millett, 202-564-4355 / millett.john@epa.gov
Alison Davis, 919-541-7587 / davis.alison@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C.-- 04/05/05) Today the Environmental Protection Agency added twenty-one counties in 12 areas across nine states to the list of counties that meet the nation’s new, more protective air quality standards for fine particle pollution (PM2.5).

Across the United States, there are 30 states designated as “in attainment.” These areas are home to over 197 million people. The 12 additional newly designated attainment areas include more than 5 million people and represent continued progress toward cleaner air and improved public health.

The designations made by EPA in December 2004 were based on 2001-2003 air quality data. Following these designations, EPA provided an opportunity for states to submit updated, quality-assured, certified air quality data for 2002-2004 because EPA originally designated PM2.5 nonattainment areas so close to the end of 2004. The addition of these 12 new attainment areas updates the designations issued by EPA in December 2004. The December 2004 designations become effective today (90 days following Federal Register publication).

After reviewing the 2002-2004 air quality monitoring data provided by the states, EPA found that eight areas previously identified as not meeting the national air quality standards should be designated as “in attainment.” These areas and the counties include: Columbus, GA-AL (Muscogee, GA and Russell, AL counties); San Diego, CA (San Diego county); Athens, GA (Clarke county); Elkhart, IN (Elkhart and St. Joseph counties); Lexington, KY (Fayette and Mercer [partial] counties); Toledo, OH (Lucas and Wood counties); Youngstown-Warren, OH-PA (Columbiana, OH, Mahoning, OH, Trumbull, OH, Mercer, PA); and Marion, WV (Marion, Monongalia [partial] and Harrison [partial] counties).

In addition, based on updated 2002-2004 air quality monitoring data, EPA is also designating as in attainment four areas identified in December 2004 as “unclassifiable.” These single county areas include: Dekalb County, AL; Etowah County in Gadsden, AL; Delaware County in Muncie, IN; and McMinn County, TN.

The 39 final nonattainment areas remaining after today’s designations, home to over 90 million people, are required to attain clean air as soon as possible but no later than 2010. EPA may grant attainment date extensions of up to five years in areas with more severe PM2.5 problems and where emissions control measures are not available or feasible.

Background

Fine particle pollution, also called PM2.5, is a mixture of microscopic solids and liquid droplets suspended in air. Fine particles can be emitted directly (such as smoke from a fire) or formed in the atmosphere from power plant, industrial and mobile source emissions of gases such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. These tiny particles can aggravate heart and lung diseases and have been associated with very serious health problems including heart attacks, chronic bronchitis and asthma attacks.

Meeting the PM2.5 standards will prevent at least 15,000 premature deaths; 75,000 cases of chronic bronchitis; 10,000 hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiovascular disease; hundreds of thousands of occurrences of aggravated asthma; and 3.1 million days when people miss work because they are suffering from symptoms related to particle pollution exposure. Attaining clean air in these additional areas is a step towards realizing those benefits.

Areas not meeting the national air quality standards are called nonattainment areas. These areas have had (or have contributed to) PM2.5 levels higher than allowed under EPA’s national air quality standard. States and tribes with designated nonattainment areas must submit plans that outline how they will meet the PM2.5 standards. States and tribes must submit their plans to EPA within three years (April 5, 2005) after the Agency’s final designations become effective.

For more information on fine particle pollution, visit: http://www.epa.gov/pmdesignations/ .
For more information on the 2004 Clean Air rules, visit: http://www.epa.gov/cleanair2004 .
For more information on particulate matter trends, visit: http://www.epa.gov/airtrends .
For information on ozone designations, visit: http://www.epa.gov/ozonedesignations .