Bryan Cohen Dec. 14, 2012, 8:06pm

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) – New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman expressed praise

Friday for the Environmental Protection Agency's newly revised national air quality standards for harmful particulate matter, also known as soot.

The EPA's new standards strengthen the annual standard of soot pollution from 15 micrograms per cubic meter to 12 micrograms per cubic meter. The announcement comes after legal actions by Schneiderman's office and partnering states to make sure the EPA adopts standards that protect the public from the adverse health effects of soot pollution.

"The soot pollution standards adopted by EPA today represent a major victory for the public's right to breathe clean, healthy air," Schneiderman said. "For too many years, the health of over one-third of Americans ‑ particularly our children, elderly and sick ‑ has suffered because of lax soot pollution standards. Now, the federal government has met the public health imperative of setting standards for soot pollution that protect all Americans, including the most vulnerable. The health of over 100 million Americans will benefit from this action."

In February, a coalition of states led by Schneiderman's office sued the EPA to compel the agency to revise the soot standards. In May, a federal district court found that the EPA failed to revise the soot standards in a timely manner, ordering the agency to promptly revise the standards. The 11-state coalition reached a settlement with the EPA requiring the agency to adopt revised air standards for soot by Friday.

Soot is a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion that consists of microscopic particles that lead to a wide range of adverse health effects such as asthma, disease, decreased lung function and premature deaths in people with lung or heart disease. The EPA estimates that more than 100 million Americans are particularly susceptible to harm from particulate matter and that the previous standards could lead to approximately 10,000 premature deaths per year in 15 urban areas. The new standards could reduce up to half of the projected premature deaths.

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