Carnegie Mellon University
February 20, 2023

Faculty and alum help EPA propose new air quality standard

Professor Peter Adams, head of Engineering and Public Policy, served on an expert’s panel of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that has proposed the strengthening of a key national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for fine particle pollution, known as PM2.5.  The proposal is intended to better protect communities, especially those most overburdened by pollution, from the serious health effects of inhaling fine particulate matter. These can include asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature death, all disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations, including children, older adults, those with heart or lung conditions, people of color, and low-income communities.

The new proposed standard would lower acceptable ambient PM2.5 from a current level of 12 micrograms per cubic meter to a new level between 9 and 10 micrograms per cubic meter. They estimate that this change could prevent up to 4,200 premature deaths and 270,000 lost workdays annually, and could result in as much as $43 billion in net health benefits in 2032.

EPA previously announced it would reconsider the prior administration’s decision to retain the 2012 PM2.5 standards, as available scientific evidence and technical information indicated the standards may be inadequate to protect public health and welfare. An integrated science assessment and policy assessment were made publicly available for this new proposal, and reviewed by the Agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) PM expert panel, on which Adams serves. The National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) is just one proposal in several from the Biden administration aimed at reducing air pollution. The agency works with its CASAC PM expert panel, and plans to work closely with state, local, and Tribal air agencies to implement the revised annual PM2.5 standard when finalized.

In addition to Adams, EPP alumnus Chris Frey (M.S. ’87, PhD ’91) also contributed significantly to the development of the new proposal. Frey currently serves the EPA as the Assistant Administrator for Research and Development and as the Agency Science Advisor.