Dust regulation is debatable

Agriculture-industry members and supporters throughout the nation are up-in-arms, or should I say, up-in-dust about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent proposal to further regulate farm dust.

Particulate matter, such as dust, was first regulated in 1971 as part of the Clean Air Act to safeguard human health.

According to the Second Draft Policy Assessment for Particulate Matter within the Clean Air Act released July 8, the EPA could retain current levels of 150 micrograms per cubic meter of air for regulating coarse particulate matter or revise it as low as 65 to 85 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

Agricultural dust occurs when weather, machinery or humans disrupt topsoil. These natural causes, coupled with the difficulty of establishing clear regulatory guidelines for enforcement, are issues for many who’ve learned about the proposal.

Twenty-one senators signed a letter directed to EPA Director Lisa Jackson, urging the EPA to reconsider its dust-regulation stance.

“[The regulation] would establish the most stringent and unparalleled regulation of dust in our nation’s history,” states the letter. “We respect efforts for a clean and healthy environment, but not at the expense of common sense. These identified levels [of dust] will be extremely burdensome for farmers and livestock producers to attain. Whether its livestock kicking up dust, soybeans being combined on a dry day in the fall, or driving a car down the gravel road, dust is a naturally occurring event.”

Dust can somewhat be controlled with chemical dust suppressants and decreased speed limits on gravel roads.

Many others also deem the regulation unnecessary.

"This proposal to apply much stricter limits on particulate matter would make it very difficult for our growers to comply, and could expose them to fines and hours-of-operation restrictions for everyday farming operations," said Lola Raska, executive vice president of the Montana Grain Growers Association.

According to a story at ArgusLeader.com, “EPA officials say that dust can be a potent pollutant and that rules to restrict it serve the public good. Officials estimate that meeting the current standards would prevent 2,500 premature deaths among people with heart or lung disease, 2,600 cases of chronic bronchitis, 5,000 heart attacks and 350,000 days when people miss work or school every year.”

A YouTube video gives viewers additional insight about the proposal: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4989443/farmers_call_possible_epa_crack_down_on_farm_dust_ridiculous/.

"We are early in the process and are far from making any decisions about whether the standards should be changed," said EPA spokesperson Brendan Gilfillan. "This will be an open and transparent process that will provide Americans with many opportunities to offer their comments and thoughts."

Does the EPA have a valid concern? If not, is there a better method to monitor dust? Should farmers be concerned?

*Photo obtained from: antzinpantz.com

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