March 28, 2014
According to a 6 March 2014 report in Environmental Health News, neighborhoods around Riverside, California an hour’s drive east of Los Angeles, had the nation’s worst soot a dozen years ago – the pollutant known as PM 2.5. Every three days, on average, the air was declared unhealthful, and people were breathing twice as many microscopic particles as deemed safe. But finally, later this year, for the first time ever, people in Riverside – and throughout the nation – will breathe air that meets an annual health standard for fine particles.
Considered inconceivable just a decade ago, achieving the federal target in Southern California and nationwide is “perhaps one of the nation’s greatest environmental success stories,” said Sam Atwood, media relations manager at the Los Angeles Basin’s air quality agency. But the victory will be short-lived. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is about to begin enforcing a new standard for the pollutant known as PM2.5.
Under the EPA’s new standard, which drops to 12 micrograms from 15, as many as 66 counties nationwide will be out of compliance. However, all are expected to meet EPA’s 2020 deadline under existing regulations for vehicles and industry – except for seven in central and Southern California.
Much of the credit goes to cleaner diesel engines, mandated by national standards. Particle traps and lower-sulfur diesel fuel have done the job, said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, which represents diesel manufacturers.
“Today, diesel emissions make up a small and declining inventory of fine particles, not just in California, but around the country,” Schaeffer said.
What this means to you
In December, 2012 EPA dropped PM 2.5 levels from 15 to 12 micrograms per cubic meter. EPA hopes to achieve national compliance by 2020. Much of the credit for today’s lower levels goes to cleaner diesel engines. Increased emphasis on clean diesel engines is expected.