SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is letting hazardous microparticulate matter infest people's lungs in 32 states by failing to enforce clean air standards, two environmental groups say. Twenty-seven states failed to submit any plan at all, and the EPA has neither approved nor rejected plans from the others, compounding the violations of the Clean Air Act, according to the federal complaint.
WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club say the EPA failed to approve or reject air quality improvement plans submitted by Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee. The Clean Air Act requires states to write plans to comply with air quality standards for microparticulates.
"Particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter, ('PM2.5') sometimes referred to as fine particulate, is a major cause of serious air quality problems in many parts of the United States," according to the complaint. "Exposure to PM2.5 causes numerous human respiratory problems, including decreased lung function, asthma and bronchitis, and is also associated with premature mortality, hospital admissions, cardiopulmonary disease and lung cancer."
Unlike many toxic gases, which can enter the lungs and be breathed out, microparticulates lodge in the alveolae, or air sacs, and can clog and scar them, reducing lung function over the long term, and the effects may not show up for years.
Twenty-seven states and Puerto Rico failed to submit plans at all, including Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana and Nebraska, the environmentalists say. Yet the EPA has not bothered "to issue a finding of failure to submit" for all 28 delinquent states.
Wild Earth and the Sierra Club ask the court to declare the EPA in violation of the Clean Air Act and issue an injunction requiring administrator Lisa Jackson to do her job. They are represented by Kristin Henry with the Sierra Club's Environmental Law Program in San Francisco.
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