Ashland-Huntington Area Meets Fine Particle Standards for Air Quality

Air quality is officially better in the Ashland-Huntington area, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA announced that it has approved the tri-state area in eastern Kentucky to be re-designated to “attainment” for fine particle pollution, effective today, after monitors showed significant improvement in air quality.

“Kentuckians in the Ashland area are breathing easier, thanks to a strong
partnership between state and local governments, businesses and industry,” said
Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) Secretary Len Peters. “Re-designation to
attainment also benefits economic development by eliminating the need for stricter
permitting requirements.”

The Clean Air Act requires states to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards
for specific pollutants to protect human health and the environment. On Jan. 27, 2011,
EEC’s Division for Air Quality (DAQ) submitted a request for the U.S. EPA to recognize
Boyd County and a portion of Lawrence County as meeting the 1997 annual standard for
fine particulate matter (PM2.5). The 1997 standard established an annual limit of 15
micrograms per cubic meter, based on a three-year average of air monitoring data.

This re-designation comes just on the heels of a new EPA ruling on fine particle
pollution. Earlier this month the EPA finalized an update to its annual PM2.5 standard,
further tightening the health-based standard to 12 micrograms per cubic meter. The
latest air monitoring data from Boyd County show compliance with the new standard as
well.

PM 2.5 refers to microscopic particles or droplets in the air that measure 2.5
microns or less in diameter which is about 30 times smaller than the width of a human
hair. Particles of this size are hazardous to human health because they can easily be
inhaled deep into lungs and even cross into the bloodstream. Major sources of PM2.5 include vehicle exhaust as well as fossil fuel and wood burning.

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