Stricter standards to clean Californian air

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has passed possibly the strictest particulate matter (PM) standards in the world in an effort to comply with state legislature – namely the 1999 Children’s Environmental Health Protection Act which states that health based ambient air quality standards must adequately protect public health.

The standards determine the amount of particulate matter that can be emitted over a given period of time in a limited area. Although the state has not managed to meet the previous standards set, these new standards have been set as a goal by the ARB in an effort to maintain the impetus to clean up California’s air.

Particulate matter can filter into the body, as it is too small to be detected by the body’s defence mechanisms. Studies have shown that PM2.5 can cause lung cancer (see related story) and heart attacks (see related story), along with other respiratory illnesses.

“This is a big step because these particles seriously impact human health, particularly infants, children, the elderly and those with existing heart or lung problems,” said ARB Chairman Dr. Alan Lloyd.

The main changes to the PM standards are:

  • The annual average standard PM10 is lowered from 30 micrograms per cubic meter(ug/m3) to 20 ug/m3; and
  • The annual average standard for PM2.5 is lowered from 15ug/m3 to 12ug/m3

The 24-hour average standard for PM10 and PM2.5 have been retained at 50ug/m3 and 24ug/m3 respectively.

“California has been moving forward with rules designed to reduce all PM pollution for many years,” a spokesperson for the ARB told edie. “These new standards set a new goal for the protection of public health,” she added.

The revised standards have been met with opposition from groups such as the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers who say the previous standards controlled PM emissions well enough. The ARB says that if the new standards are attained, 6,500 premature deaths could be prevented.

However even if the sentiment is present among many Californian’s to clean up their air quality, the technology is not – the ARB spokesperson estimated it would be at least 3-5 years before new technology to attain the standards is available.

Story by Sorcha Clifford

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