ARL Scientist Receives EPA 2009 Bronze Medal Award

Congratulations to Dr. Marc Pitchford for receiving, as part of the Integrated Scientific Assessment Team, an EPA Office of Research and Development 2009 Bronze Medal Award. The Integrated Science Assessment (ISA) Team received this award for their exceptional scientific leadership, innovation and service by transforming scientific assessments to support science-based air standards decisions. The team was nominated for its exceptional scientific leadership, and use of emerging technology and innovation, in completing complex scientific assessments of the health and environmental effects for particulate matter (PM) and carbon monoxide. Their work has created a model for future assessments and it directly supports two of EPA’s strategic goals: the Clean Air and Global Climate Change goal and the Healthy Communities and Ecosystems goal.

Background: Marc Pitchford is a research scientist with ARL’s Special Operations and Research Division in Las Vegas, Nevada. Starting in 2007, he worked with the PM ISA to review and synthesize a policy-relevant review of the scientific literature on the visibility effects of PM (Integrated Science Assessment for PM, final report Chapter 9, December 2009). EPA invited Dr. Pitchford to provide technical expertise on visibility that was not available among their staff. Preparation of the ISA is the first in a series of steps in EPA’s periodic review of and possible revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set NAAQS for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. The Act established two types of national air quality standards: Primary standards set limits to protect public health and Secondary standards set limits to protect public welfare, including protection against decreased visibility. Dr. Pitchford continues to provide technical expertise on visibility to EPA, including the preparation of the Urban Focused Visibility Assessment, finalized in July 2010, and the PM Policy Assessment due to be completed in fall 2010. The visibility effects goals of this work are to determine whether visibility levels represent unacceptable public welfare impacts that are not being adequately addressed by current PM NAAQS, and if so to determine how the PM NAAQS should be changed to provide sufficient protection.

Significance: Visibility is the most noticeable effect of air quality. Periods with poor visibility have been linked to increased psychological and behavioral issues. Historically, welfare effects have been protected by the secondary PM NAAQS with indicator, averaging times, forms, and levels identical to those of the primary PM NAAQS. The current assessments are demonstrating that this approach does not offer adequate or effective protection of visibility public welfare effects. A possible outcome of this effort would be a proposal for a secondary PM NAAQS based on daylight 1-hour averaged PM light extinction (that is the fractional loss of light by scattering and absorption by PM per unit of distance through the atmosphere) instead of the current 24- hour averaged PM mass concentration, and that in some regions of the country the new secondary PM NAAQS would be more restrictive than the primary PM NAAQS.

For More Information, contact: Steven.Fine