Soot, also known as fine particle pollution (PM2.5), can penetrate deep into the lungs and has been linked to a wide range of serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children. On December 14, 2012, EPA updated the national air quality standards for PM2.5 by revising the annual standard to 12 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) [See WIMS 12/14/12]. Updated last in 1997, the revised annual standard will have major economic benefits with comparatively low costs. EPA estimates health benefits of the revised standard would range from $4 billion to over $9 billion per year.
The PM Advance program is designed to help communities who meet current standards continue to meet the standards. Early work to reduce fine particles, such as PM Advance participation, can be incorporated into required planning. Through the program, participants will commit to taking specific steps to reduce fine particle pollution, such as putting in place a school bus retrofit program or an air quality action day program, while EPA will supply technical advice, outreach information, and other support. While Federal rules are expected to ensure that most areas meet the new standards, areas can participate in PM Advance to help them remain in attainment.