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EPA Determines that All Areas of Puerto Rico Meet New Fine Particle Air Pollution Standard

Release Date: 12/17/2004
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(#04188) NEW YORK, N.Y. – In a letter to the Governor of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today agreed with the Commonwealth’s assessment that all areas of Puerto Rico 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 Puerto Rico,” said Acting EPA Regional Administrator, Kathleen C. Callahan. “We have made progress making the air cleaner in Puerto Rico and it is important that we continue that progress, especially in the face of the island’s high asthma rate. EPA is providing critical national tools to continue the course toward clean air.”

EPA decided to designate the entire Island of Puerto Rico as attaining the new fine particle standard after considering comments from the Commonwealth and the public. The Agency will work closely with Puerto Rico 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.

EPA is working closely with the Puerto Rico Department of Health and mainland and island academic institutions to address Puerto Rico’s significant asthma problem. The coordinated effort focuses on asthma intervention and education through the island’s schools.

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