USEPA Upgrades SO2 Air Standard For First Time In 40 Years - Asthmatics Have Much To Gain

asthma symptoms image

"Figure A shows the location of the lungs and airways in the body. Figure B shows a cross-section of a normal airway. Figure C shows a cross-section of an airway during asthma symptoms." Caption & Image credit:National Heart Lung & Blood Institute

Look past the oil globs and political waffling for a minute and you'll find good news lurking. USEPA has upgraded an outdated SO2 standard, which involved long term (daily) average concentration limits, to a short-term standard that better protects asthmatics, for example. By early 2013 expect enforcement to begin against a one-hour SO2 health standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb). Full implementation will take place over more than a decade, however. As soon as the US Chamber of Commerce, or some other industry group, starts letting off coal-fired steam - let's all be sure to point out the estimated health benefits. Otherwise, there's a chance EPA will have to downgrade the protections when it is made final.From the EPA press release: "EPA estimates that the health benefits associated with this rule range between $13 billion and $33 billion annually. These benefits include preventing 2,300 to 5,900 premature deaths and 54,000 asthma attacks a year. The estimated cost in 2020 to fully implement this standard is approximately $1.5 billion."

This portion of the standard is all about public health. Environment comes later, after monitoring results are in.

The final rule addresses only the SO2 primary standards, which are designed to protect public health. EPA will address the secondary standard - designed to protect the public welfare, including the environment - as part of a separate review to be completed in 2012.

EPA expects to identify or designate areas not meeting the new standard by June 2012.

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