Beef Industry Group Questions EPA Dust Rule Analysis

National Cattlemen's Beef Association says study over air quality measurement is flawed.

Published on: Nov 2, 2009

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has criticized a review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter. Conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the study was done as part of a required review of the coarse particulate matter standards. In effect, EPA is looking at the impact of duct.

According to a statement from NCBA, coarse particulate matter is "nothing more than dust kicked up by cars and trucks traveling on dirt roads, a tractor tilling a field or cattle moving around on dirt," says Tamara Theis, NCBA's chief environmental council. "Studies do not show that rural dust is a health problem."

EPA, back in 2006, set a coarse particulate matter standard of 150 micrograms per cubic meter of air, and when reviewing the standard in 2008, determined that the evidence on health effects from this level of dust was inconclusive. However, in July 2009, EPA reinterpreted what NCBA calls "the inconclusive evidence" and made use of what the group calls a flawed study to suggest that there are adverse health effects from dust at leves that are 10 times lower than the current standard.

Theis says EPA is suggesting 12 to 15 micrograms of dust per cubic meter of air, which is below the naturally occurring levels of dust through most Western states - including "pristine National Parks," she says. If EPA were to set air standards at this level, much of the country would be over the limit.

Cattle producers are concerned because it would limit the ability to raise livestock, but the issue goes beyond agriculture, Theis says. "States would be required to impose extreme control requirements and limitations on many businesses to ensure that the standard is met."

The group is urging EPA to reject the study results and refrain from tightening the dust standard further.