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Industrial Smoke

Particulate Matter



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to strengthen a key national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for fine particle pollution, also known as particulate matter or PM2.5. The EPA's current proposal is not strong enough, so health professionals must tell the EPA to set the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter no higher than 8 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) for the annual standard and no higher than 25 µg/m3 for the 24-hour standard. The EPA is accepting comments until March 28.

Please note: Ideally, we would ask for particulate matter safeguards even lower than 8 µg/m3 for the annual standard and 25 µg/m3 for the 24-hour standard because there is no safe level of particulate matter for health. But these are the lowest particulate matter standards the EPA has said it will consider. We are advocating for the best possible particulate matter safeguards within the parameters set by the EPA.

What can you ask for?

Ask the EPA to set the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter no higher than 8 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) for the annual standard and no higher than 25 µg/m3 for the 24-hour standard. 

  • Particulate matter can harm human health in a number of ways, including wheezing and coughing, shortness of breath, asthma attacks, worsening COPD, lung cancer, premature death, susceptibility to infections, hearts attack and strokes, impaired cognitive functioning, metabolic disorders, and preterm births and low birth weight (see source). 

Ask the EPA to move quickly!  

  • Currently, more than 63 million Americans experience unhealthy spikes in daily particle pollution, and more than 20 million Americans experience dangerous levels of particulate matter on a year-round basis (see source).

  • Harmful particle pollution continues to rise. An additional 8.9 million people are living with dangerous spikes in short-term particle pollution in 2022 compared to the previous year (see source). 

  • These standards haven't been updated since 2012. There is no time to lose to ensure cleaner air and better health for all Americans.

Ask the EPA to set the strongest particulate matter standards to protect those who are most vulnerable, including children, seniors, communities of color, and people with chronic illness.

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For talking points about how fine particle pollution affects our health in Wisconsin, please click here.


Take Action

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What is fine particulate matter?

  • Fine particulate matter, or soot, is an extremely dangerous pollutant, a deadly mix of metals, organic chemicals, and acidic substances that are so small they can be inhaled deeply into the lungs and enter the bloodstream.

Where does particulate matter come from?

  • Particulate matter comes from many sources, including coal-fired power plants, vehicle exhaust, and other industrial processes.

What are the health effects of exposure to particulate matter?

  • Exposure to particulate matter causes increased infant mortality, cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, cognitive impairments, and premature death. Additionally, new studies have shown that even low levels of air pollution exposure, including to particulate matter, lead to increased risks of Covid-19 infection.

How does climate change affect fine particle pollution?

  • Heatwaves exacerbate the impact of fine particle pollution, as new research shows the risk of death increases up to 21% on days with both extreme heat and air pollution.

  • Though protecting public health fully justifies stronger particulate matter standards, strengthening these standards will also help us fight climate change. 

  • Particulate matter pollution is produced from burning fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change as well as to soot pollution. One study found that a specific form of particulate matter, called black carbon, is second only to carbon pollution in contributing to climate change.

I have additional questions, who can I talk to?

Interested in learning more? Below are some resources >>

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