Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (December 17, 2004) -- Recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted a new standard for fine particles, designed to be more protective of public health. Today, 11 Maryland jurisdictions were listed as failing to comply with the new standard.

In Maryland, Carroll, Harford, Howard, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Prince Georges, Montgomery, Frederick, Washington and Charles counties as well as the City of Baltimore were listed as not meeting the federal air quality standard for particles or particulate matter. The non-attainment designations begin the planning process to meet the fine particle standard. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) expects that air quality plans to meet the fine particle standard will be due in early 2008 to enable attainment by the 2010 deadline.

MDE has implemented one of the country’s most aggressive air pollution control programs—aimed at reducing ground level ozone and fine particulates. MDE continues to take actions to help Maryland meet the fine particle standard.

“We are committed to achieving healthy air quality so all citizens can breather easier,” said MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “Our progress in controlling ozone pollution and understanding regional transport of some pollutants has given us an enormous head start in the process to continue resolving our fine particle problems.”

MDE is working with the 13 states in the Ozone Transport Commission to push for aggressive new controls at power plants to reduce fine particle pollution. Other actions like acid rain controls, Maryland’s Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program and reformulated gasoline requirements have all helped lower particle levels. Particle levels in Maryland have dropped about 25 percent since the early 1990s as a result of these efforts.

Fine particulate matter consists of small particles of solid and liquid matter. Dust, ash, mist, smoke and fumes are several examples of particulate matter. Both long- and short-term exposure to fine particles have been linked to serious health problems.

Although local emissions play a significant role in fine particle problems, part of Maryland’s fine particles come from pollution transport from regional upwind states, the Secretary added. As with ozone, fine particles (and their precursors) can be transported large distances (hundreds of miles). Consequently, MDE will continue to push for regional solutions to Maryland’s air quality problems to augment local controls.

As with ozone, MDE issues forecasts when high levels of fine particles are expected. [For more information please visit:] MDE began forecasting for fine particulate matter on May 1. Fine particles are present year round, and the forecasts will be available all year. The forecasting service allows citizens to understand air quality better and make more informed decisions related to their health.