Florida now meets all EPA air quality standards; largest state to hit benchmark

The Sunshine State can now also be called the clean-air state after becoming the largest state in the U.S. to meet all EPA air quality standards, the agency announced Thursday.

The Hillsborough-Polk County area was the last in the state to attain low sulfur-dioxide levels, which is a chemical typically emitted from fossil fuels.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler joined county and state leaders at Simmons Park in Ruskin for a news conference, in which he explained the importance of this achievement.

"Sulphur-dioxide in the air for human health can impact the lungs, can be a trigger for asthma in children. So this is really a good public health announcement that everybody here in Florida should be celebrating," Wheeler said. "Of the four large states -- Texas, California, New York and Florida -- Florida is the only state that's in total attainment for all six air-quality pollutants."

Wheeler also said he the EPA plans to ban a chemical in paint tht is often used on the bottoms of boats. He said doing so will help better protect coral and marine life.