New EPA Rules for "Soot" Pollution Could Improve Air for Texans

    Most Texans take breathing for granted - unless the air is polluted. It's a health issue the Biden administration hopes to mitigate through new restrictions on one of the deadliest air pollutants - soot.

    The Environmental Protection Agency wants to tighten national air-quality standards for soot - also known as fine particulate pollution - which haven't been updated since 2012.

    Texas is among the top five states for soot pollution, but Elena Craft, senior director, Climate and Health at the Environmental Defense Fund, said a national solution is needed.

    "It really impacts every community across the country," she said. "It is harmful because of its contribution to heart ailments, lung disease, asthma attacks - even cancer."

    The EPA's rule would reduce the limit on industrial fine soot particles from an annual average of 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air to between nine and 10 micrograms. Public feedback on the proposed new rules is being accepted through March 28.

    Soot pollution comes from power plants, vehicles and refineries, and Craft said it's more concentrated in certain parts of Texas than others.

    "Houston, Dallas, El Paso - you do see higher ambient concentrations of particulate matter in some of the larger metropolitan areas, for sure," she said, "and also in some of the industrial areas - so, along the ship channel and the Gulf Coast."

    Craft said there are also disparities as to who is most affected by soot pollution - with communities of color more likely to live near industrial facilities, railyards and other polluting facilities. She said it's also an issue for children.

    "They breathe more air per pound of body weight than an adult," she said, "and so they are at higher risk, as well as the elderly."

    According to Craft, the new standards proposed by the EPA are a welcome improvement, but the Environmental Defense Fund would like to see even stricter rules. The standards are expected to be finalized this summer.

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