EPA Opts Against Science-Based Update to Air Pollution Rules The EPA moved to retain current air quality standards for levels of tiny soot particles (or fine particulate pollution, also called PM2.5), which are caused by burning fossil fuels including gasoline, coal, and natural gas. The decision flies in the face of growing scientific evidence that indicates breathing in fine particulate pollution is unsafe at any level, linked to asthma, heart disease, and premature death. In early April, a team of Harvard public health researchers released data that showed higher death rates from COVID-19 in regions with high levels of soot pollution. Status: Proposed rule published April 30, 2020. EPA holds virtual public hearing on May 20 and 21, 2020. Public comment period ends June 29, 2020.