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Environment & Energy

Local Organizations Say EPA Should Raise Quality By Reducing Soot

Representatives of several Pittsburgh organizations gathered today on the South Side's Riverwalk Trail in advance of a public hearing in Philadelphia Tuesday at which the federal Environmental Protection Agency will be urged to tighten air quality standards.

The Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), Girls on the Run, Venture Outdoors, and Bike PGH said the EPA should raise air quality by lowering the amount of soot, or PM2.5, permitted in its annual and daily standards because of health and environmental risks.

The current standard set by the EPA in 1997 requires soot levels be within 15 micrograms per cubic meter on a yearly basis across the nation. GASP suggests that be lowered to 11 micrograms per cubic meter.

In 2006 the EPA's standard for daily spikes of soot was set to a maximum of 35 micrograms per cubic meter. GASP recommends that be lowered to 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

Jamin Bogi, Education and Outreach Coordinator for GASP, said the particulate matter classified as PM2.5 is invisible and dangerous to human health.

"The particular matter we're talking about is microscopic. It's smaller than the human body has a way to protect itself from," Bogi said. "It goes right into your lungs and your bloodstream and the smallest stuff goes, they're thinking, straight through your nasal passages into your brain."

Olivia Sobkowiak, 10, of Girls on the Run, said that lower amounts of air pollution can encourage children to get outside and be active.

"More of the kids are going to start getting even more overweight and more unhealthy," Sobkowiak said, "so, if we stop this air pollution more of the kids are going to stop being so overweight and more healthy and going outside."