Posted by: Tamela Adamson-McMullen
Over time, monitors will begin appearing at roadways all across the United States, but breathe easy: They won’t be gauging how fast you’re driving.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is issuing new national air-quality standards for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and establishing new monitoring requirements in congested areas. NO2 is formed from vehicle, power plant and other industrial emissions and contributes to the formation of fine-particle pollution and smog.
EPA has set the standards at a level of 100 parts per billion (ppb) in one hour’s time. New monitors are due to start operating by Jan. 1, 2013. At the same time, EPA is retaining existing requirements that set the annual NO2 average at 53 ppb.
The new standards—the first in 35 years—are expected to protect millions of Americans from peak short-term NO2 exposures. The exposures have been linked to impaired lung function and increased respiratory infections.
Children, asthmatics and the elderly are especially at risk for smog-related health problems, which lead to emergency room visits and hospital admissions.
“For the first time ever, we are working to prevent short-term exposures in high risk NO2 zones like urban communities and areas near roadways,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said.
“Improving air quality is a top priority for this EPA,” she continued. “We’re moving into the clean, sustainable economy of the 21st century, defined by expanded innovation, stronger pollution standards and healthier communities.”
New standards require monitors to be located near roadways in cities with a minimum population of 500,000 residents. Larger cities and areas with major roadways will have additional monitors. Community-wide monitoring will be ongoing in cities that have at least 1 million residents.
The standards are part of an EPA goal to tighten the nation’s smog standards to protect the health of all Americans, especially children.