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Published: Monday, 12/24/2012


Breathing easier

Among the major regulated air pollutants, fine particles of soot pose the greatest threat. Humans deeply inhale the tiny specks. The particles make it harder to breathe, and can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and premature death.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is required to bring its soot-control standard in line with modern pollution-control technology every five years. Eleven states, several of them downwind from Ohio, sued to get the most-recent upgrade, the first since 2006.

The new standard issued this month tightens emissions rules by 20 percent, but gives polluters — mostly coal-fired power plants, factories, and diesel trucks — until 2020 to comply. Only 66 of the nation’s 3,033 counties are believed to violate the current standard. Of these, seven counties — all in California — are expected to remain out of compliance when the rules take effect.

The EPA decision provides more certainty for Ohio, the nation’s fourth-largest energy user, as its industries make the transition to a cleaner economy.

Soot is blamed for as many as 320,000 deaths nationwide every year. The EPA believes that figure can come down by 40,000 by 2030. Thousands of hospital admissions, including cases of heart and lung disease, will be reduced, as will millions of sick days. Fewer people will suffer from asthma.

The estimated compliance costs of $53 million to $350 million a year pale in comparison to the estimated health-care savings of $4 billion to $9 billion a year from the new standard. This is one regulation we all can live with.

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