For Immediate Release, August 11, 2020


Robert Ukeiley, Center for Biological Diversity, (720) 496-8568,
Brian Willis, Sierra Club,
Caroline Cox, Center for Environmental Health, (541) 645-2626,

Lawsuit Launched Against EPA to Combat Asthma-causing Sulfur Dioxide Air Pollution in Eight States

Legal Action Will Help Protect Air for More Than 980,000 People

WASHINGTON— Three conservation groups filed a formal notice today of their intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to meet congressionally mandated deadlines for enforcing reductions in dangerous sulfur dioxide air pollution.

According to the EPA, areas in eight states have sulfur dioxide pollution that violates national air quality standards, causing environmental damage and human health problems like asthma attacks. The law requires the EPA to ensure that states have plans in place that are actually reducing air pollution.

Areas affected include Hayden and Miami, Arizona; Alton Township, Illinois; parts of Indiana’s Daviess and Pike counties; Muscatine, Iowa; Saint Bernard Parish, Louisiana; Detroit, Michigan; part of Sullivan County in Tennessee; and Rhinelander, Wisconsin.

“As scientists continue to find troubling links between air pollution and COVID-19, cleaning up our air is more important than ever,” said Robert Ukeiley, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The EPA has refused to combat sulfur dioxide pollution, leaving us no choice but to take legal action.”

Studies have shown that air pollution results in worse outcomes for people who have COVID-19 and similar diseases. The World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined that the highest risk groups for COVID-19 include people with asthma, which can be caused by, or exacerbated by, air pollution.

“EPA’s job is to ensure that all Americans have clean air to breathe,” said Zachary Fabish, a Sierra Club attorney. “Trump’s EPA is failing the more than 1.9 million people that live, work, and play in nine different states.”

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set national ambient air-quality standards to protect people and the environment from pollutants like sulfur oxides, which are produced from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil.

Sulfur dioxide pollution causes a range of public-health and environmental problems, including contributing to heart and lung diseases that are particularly threatening to children and the elderly.

The EPA’s updated scientific studies show a link between sulfur dioxide pollution and developmental harm to children. Sulfur dioxide also contributes to acid rain and haze, damaging lakes, streams and ecosystems throughout the United States and decreasing visibility in national parks and wilderness areas.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Center for Environmental Health works with parents, communities, businesses, workers, and government to protect children and families from toxic chemicals in homes, workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods.

The Sierra Club is a grassroots environmental organization with more than 3 million members and supporters working to safeguard the health of communities, protect wildlife, and preserve wild places through public education, lobbying, and litigation.