EPA Sets Stronger National Air Quality Standard for Sulfur Dioxide

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing a final new health standard for sulfur dioxide (SO2). This one-hour health standard will protect millions of Americans from short-term exposure to SO2, which is primarily emitted from power plants and other industrial facilities. Exposure to SO2 can aggravate asthma and cause other respiratory difficulties.

The EPA is setting the one-hour SO2 health standard at 75 parts per billion (ppb), a level designed to protect against short-term exposures ranging from five minutes to 24 hours, revoking the current 24-hour and annual SO2 health standards in the process.

The EPA is also changing the monitoring requirements for SO2. Any new monitors required by this rule must begin operating no later than January 1, 2013, and modeling as well as monitoring will determine compliance with the new standard.

EPA estimates that the health benefits associated with this rule range between $13 billion and $33 billion annually. These benefits include preventing 2,300 to 5,900 premature deaths and 54,000 asthma attacks a year. The estimated cost in 2020 to fully implement this standard is approximately $1.5 billion.

Read the full press release.