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Proposed pollution rules could help air quality in San Diego

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering tighter air quality rules that could help clean up the air in San Diego neighborhoods such as Barrio Logan, National City and San Ysidro.

The EPA is looking at tightening the amount of particle pollution (PM 2.5) that it considers acceptable.

Those pollution particles enter the lungs and can cause serious health impacts like asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature death.


“Particulate pollution, more commonly known as soot, are tiny particles of air pollution that come from oil refineries, from diesel, from our cars, their tailpipe pollution,” said Lisa Frank, executive legislative director of Environment America.

The EPA last changed the PM 2.5 standards in 2012. Since then, thousands of scientific studies have linked soot exposure to negative health outcomes.

“Our work to deliver clean, breathable air for everyone is a top priority at EPA, and this proposal will help ensure that all communities, especially the most vulnerable among us, are protected from exposure to harmful pollution,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “This proposal to deliver stronger health protections against particulate matter is grounded in the best available science, advancing the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to scientific integrity and a rigorous scientific process.”

Tighter pollution restrictions could help clean up the air around San Diego’s working waterfront and along the international border. Both areas suffer from higher-than-average pollution linked to industrial activity or cars and trucks.

State officials consider those neighborhoods to have some of the highest health risks to residents in California.


“As a physician who’s passionate about oncology and dedicated to enhancing the health equity that’s so often needed in Black communities and other communities of color, I am grateful for the Biden Administration’s commitment to advancing equity and justice for all,” said Dr. Doris Browne, former President of the National Medical Association. “No one should be sickened by the environment they live in.”

The EPA proposal suggests lowering the current standard from 12 micro grams per cubic meter of air, to nine or 10.

Federal officials say that will save more than 4,200 lives, prevent 270,000 lost workdays per year, and save an estimated $43 billion in health care costs.

Environment America and other environmental groups are pushing for the limit to be lowered even more.

“Tightening it down to eight would save an estimated 19,600 lives per year,” Frank said. “So, we’re talking about thousands and thousands of additional people that could be kept alive and healthy if we went even further.”

The EPA will seek public comment in the next couple of months.

A change in the rule could come later this year.