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EPA sets lower limit on soot

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Jan. 7, 2013

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Public health advocates are praising a decision by the Obama administration to set a stronger national air quality standard on soot, one of the nation’s most lethal air pollutants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December 2012 approved lower limits on airborne microscopic particles after independent scientists found such pollutants cause premature deaths at levels below what was considered safe.

Particulate matter, also known as particle pollution, is a mixture of liquid droplets and solid particles consisting of chemicals, metals and smoke. The particles are found in coal-fired power plants, industrial boilers, diesel vehicles and wood stoves, among other places. The American Lung Assn. said the particles can penetrate lungs and lead to premature deaths, heart attacks and asthma attacks.

The EPA has tightened the limit — called the National Ambient Air Quality Standards — to 12 micrograms per cubic meter from 15 micrograms per cubic meter, a standard that was set in 1997. The change creates cleaner air and better protects the public’s health, said the American Lung Assn.

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