The Obama administration just set new limits on soot from smoke stacks and diesel engines, a type of air pollution linked to early death and higher rates of heart attacks, strokes and lung diseases. In an announcement on Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency promised sweeping public health benefits, yet will likely experience backlash from industries and some members of Congress that strenuously opposed the new standards, The Guardian reports.
Clean air advocates, however, celebrated what they say is long-overdue decision. The air quality standards were raised only after the environmental group Earth Justice sued the EPA into enforcing its own recommended quality regulations. In 1997, the agency set a limit of 15 micrograms of soot emissions per cubic meter of air. Now, that value has dropped to 12 micrograms, a significant improvement. About 66 counties in the country currently exceed the 15 microgram standard. The agency estimates that by 2020 only 7 counties will remain problems, all of them in California.
Microscopic soot particles lodge in people’s lungs and bloodstream, causing problems like severe asthma attacks, especially for children and older people. The EPA says the new standards may save the nation between $4 and $9 bilion per year, and will cost $350 million to implement.
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