Particulate Matter: EPA Has Started to Address the National Academies' Recommendations on Estimating Health Benefits, but More Progress Is Needed

GAO-06-780 Published: Jul 17, 2006. Publicly Released: Jul 19, 2006.
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A large body of scientific evidence links exposure to particulate matter--a widespread form of air pollution--to serious health problems, including asthma and premature death. Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) periodically reviews the appropriate air quality level at which to set national standards to protect the public against the health effects of particulate matter. EPA proposed revisions to these standards in January 2006 and issued a draft regulatory impact analysis of the revisions' expected costs and benefits. The estimated benefits of air pollution regulations have been controversial in the past. A 2002 National Academies report generally supported EPA's approach but made 34 recommendations to improve how EPA implements its approach. GAO was asked to determine whether and how EPA applied the Academies' recommendations in its estimates of the health benefits expected from the January 2006 proposed revisions to the particulate matter standards. GAO examined the draft analysis, met with EPA officials, and interviewed members of the National Academies' committee. In providing technical comments on the report, EPA officials said it was fair and balanced and noted the agency's progress in addressing recommendations via research and development and other analyses.

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