Baltimore Region Meets the Fine Particulate Matter Standard
Its official – the Baltimore region’s air has safe levels of fine particulate matter. On December 16th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized their decision. The region has reached the national ambient air quality standard (or, NAAQS) for fine particulate matter, and continues to stay below unhealthy levels.
Since 2004, the Baltimore region has been classified as not attaining the fine particulate matter (PM2.5) NAAQS set in 1997. The 1997 PM2.5 NAAQS was set at 15 micrograms per cubic meter. PM2.5 is a mixture of microscopic solids and liquid droplets smaller than 2.5 micrometers in size, suspended in the air. Their size is equivalent to 1/30th the diameter of human hair. Sources of PM2.5 generally include coal-fired power plants and other sources of combustion, fires, wind-blown dust, and vehicle exhaust. A variety of federal and state controls have driven down emissions from power plants since 2007. Another significant regulation for reducing particulate matter was the 2007 heavy duty highway rule which reduced emissions from heavy duty diesel trucks, and reduced levels of sulfur from diesel fuel, allowing for more efficient use of onboard emission controls. Federal regulations have also reduced emissions from “nonroad vehicles”, like all-terrain vehicles.
Lower levels of fine particulate matter in our air means that the air is safer for everyone to breathe.Scientific research links particulate matter pollution to cardiovascular problems including heart attacks, aggravation of respiratory problems such as asthma, and even premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
As part of the Clean Air Act, the State of Maryland must ensure that the region’s air quality continues to stay at healthy levels for PM2.5. To do this, the State has developed a maintenance state implementation plan, or SIP. The maintenance SIP demonstrates how the region will continue to maintain safe levels out to 2025.