By Stuart Tousman
As a person with asthma who lives in the Roanoke Valley, I will breathe a little easier knowing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing life-saving air quality standards for particulate matter, or soot pollution. In June, EPA put forth a proposal to reduce the standard from 15 micrograms to a range of 12 to 13 micrograms, and during the next month, this standard should be finalized.
There is overwhelming scientific data demonstrating the negative health impacts of soot pollution in people with cardiac and respiratory disease. Particulate matter increases the risk of developing asthma, bronchitis and susceptibility to other respiratory diseases, even premature death. For those with heart disease, particulate matter is linked to increases in heart attacks and arrhythmias. According to a recent EPA report, the economic impact of implementing these standards in terms of health benefits will be $80 million a year, while the cost is estimated to be no more than $3 million a year.
Tousman is a professor of health psychology at Jefferson College of Health Sciences and secretary of Greater Roanoke Valley Asthma and Air Quality Coalition.