News Release

EPA Proposes Designating Region In Compliance with Limits on Fine-Particle Air Pollution

Aug 6, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today proposed designating the metropolitan Washington region as in compliance with the federal standard for controlling fine-particle air pollution. The designation would become official after a 30-day public comment period. (Federal Register Announcement)

In 2005, EPA ruled that the metropolitan Washington region had not met its standard for reducing fine particle air pollution. Since that time, area officials have worked through the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee (MWAQC,) at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) to comply with the standard. We have successfully controlled the pollutant by reducing emissions from power plants, passenger vehicles, and heavy-duty diesel engines, increasing green energy purchases and promoting energy efficiency and green building construction.

“I am pleased that the Metropolitan Washington region will be officially recognized for its progress in reducing fine particle pollution,” said MWAQC Chair David Snyder, who is Vice Mayor of Falls Church. “This reflects the hard work and collaboration of people in local government and business.”

What are fine particles and why are they important?
You may not be able to see fine particles, but they’re in our air: tiny particles of dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets. These tiny particles enter the air from a variety of sources such as from power plants, factories, automobiles, construction vehicles, unpaved roads, wood burning, and agriculture sites. Others come from a reaction between gases from burning fuels, sunlight, and water vapor. Unlike ground level ozone, particles are not a seasonal pollutant; high levels can occur any time of the year.

Reducing the amount of fine particles in the air is important because they can harm our health. These particles are too small for our respiratory systems to filter out and end up getting trapped in our lungs. Unhealthy levels of fine particles can cause or trigger significant health problems. Exposure to particles can decrease lung function and cause coughing, difficult or painful breathing, the possibility of an emergency room visit or even premature death. The very smallest pass through the lungs into the blood stream and can damage the heart. Exposure to particles can weaken the heart and possibly bring on a heart attack.

The environment also suffers from particle pollution. Particles are the major source of haze, and can harm the environment by changing the nutrient and chemical balance in soil and water.

The Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee, staffed by the Council of Governments, coordinates air quality planning in the National Capital Region. Its members include area elected officials, environmental directors, and state air management and transportation officials.

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