No lower “safe” level of particulate air pollution by Dr. Kirtly Jones

You all who follow the postings and interviews and letters to the editor by Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment know that there is no lower “safe” level of particulate air pollution (often reported as levels of particulates called PM 2.5). Here, on the Wasatch Front, we are exposed to increased levels of PM 2.5 from vehicles (especially diesel trucks), refineries, homes, wood burning fire places in homes and restaurants….and lately wildfires.

The levels of PM 2.5 which trigger actions by the Utah Division of Air Quality and trigger colors on our air quality maps of yellow, orange, and (gasp) red are set by the EPA.  The EPA in the past has used evidence of risk to determine the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.  Over the past 10 years, the evidence is piling up that the levels of “acceptable” PM 2.5 are too high.  Too much damage is done to the health of pregnancies, children, young people, old people and vulnerable people (that adds up to ALL people) at levels of PM2.5 lower than the EPA standards.

Today, in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Independent Particulate Matter Review Panel published a call to tighten particulate matter air-quality standards. The authors were all members of the EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee Particulate Matter Review Panel that was formed in 2015. They state, “We unequivocally and unanimously concluded that the current PM2.5 standards do not protect public health” (1).

The current Administration and EPA have done nothing to improve the quality of the air that Americans breathe. At the instigation of the current Administration, clean air rules have been rolled back.

We need to take back a scientific and public health approach to regulation of air pollution. 

Please join us, make your voice heard and help us continue the fight for clean air for you and your families.

Kirtly Parker Jones MD

1.     The Need for a Tighter Particulate Matter Air-Quality Standard. Independent Particulate Matter Review Panel. NEJM August 13, 383 (7); 680