SACRAMENTO, CA - Every five years, the EPA revises the acceptable soot level in the air.
Soot is one of the most harmful forms of air pollution. Currently, the EPA's acceptable soot level is set at 15 micrograms per cubic meter; this year, the EPA is looking to lower that number to 12 micrograms per cubic meter.
However, critics argue that number is still too high.
The American Lung Association was joined by other community groups at a public hearing Thursday in Sacramento, which is only one of two meetings the EPA is hosting across the country.
The American Lung Association said that regulators have been relaxed in California, where the level of soot exceeds 15 in many parts of the state. They point to studies that link soot to heart attacks, stroke and lung cancer. The association supports the lower levels being proposed, but they believe the EPA needs to set the level even lower.
"These are some of the most dangerous pollutants out there," American Lung Association Assist VP Janice Nolen said. "They are complex, they are widespread and these standards help us say, 'Alright, enough!' So we're saying to the EPA you really need to set the limit much lower than the proposal you have out there already."
EPA said the process is far from done. The agency said it is open to public scrutiny for the current proposal, adding public input is a key factor is helping them set new air quality standards.
"We look at the science, we look at the risk assessment in determining and we hear from independent scientists in determining what levels to propose, but we want to hear from the public as well," EPA spokesperson Alison Davis said. "That input is important and valuable to us. So that will all be examined together in selecting the final rule."
The EPA will make its ruling by the end of the year. It will take written comments from the public through the end of August.
For information on how to do that, visit their website epa.gov