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Highlights

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 six pollutants, including particulate matter. EPA proposed revisions to the particulate matter standards in January 2006 and issued a regulatory impact analysis of the revisions' expected costs and benefits. The estimated benefits of air pollution regulations have been controversial in the past, and a 2002 National Academies report to EPA made recommendations aimed at improving the estimates for particulate matter and other air pollution regulations. This testimony is based on GAO's July 2006 report Particulate Matter: EPA Has Started to Address the National Academies' Recommendations on Estimating Health Benefits, but More Progress Is Needed (GAO-06-780). GAO determined whether and how EPA applied the National Academies' recommendations in its estimates of the health benefits expected from the January 2006 proposed revisions to the particulate matter standards.

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