Decision not to tighten U.S. soot rules ‘highly irresponsible,’ says expert

Public health experts have criticized the Trump administration’s decision not to strengthen regulations for fine particulate (PM2.5) air pollution.

According to a December 7, 2020 New York Times article, the decision was made in spite of evidence from the government’s own scientists that reducing such pollution could save more than 10,000 American lives each year.

Fine soot pollution is generated mostly from fuel combustion from cars, refineries, and power plants. PM2.5 particles can lodge deep in the lungs and have been linked with respiratory illness and premature death in numerous studies. In April, Francesca Dominici, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Biostatistics, Population, and Data Science at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative, co-authored a study that found that people with COVID-19 who live in U.S. regions with high levels of fine particulate matter are more likely to die from the disease than people who live in less-polluted areas.

Dominici said she was “disappointed but not surprised” by the Trump administration’s decision. “This is highly irresponsible,” she said. “It follows this pattern of this administration ignoring science and scientists.” She said she hopes the incoming Biden administration will revise the rule.

Jonathan Buonocore, research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health, commented on the Trump administration decision in a December 10 Popular Science article. He noted that there’s no safe level of fine particle pollution. “As we keep cleaning up the air, we find health outcomes at lower and lower levels [of pollution],” he said.

Read the New York Times article: Trump Administration Declines to Tighten Soot Rules, Despite Link to Covid Deaths

Read the Popular Science article: Cracking down on soot pollution could save thousands of lives—but the EPA won’t do it

Learn more

Air pollution linked with higher COVID-19 death rates (Harvard Chan School news)