WASHINGTON (November 26, 2014)—The Environmental Protection Agency today moved to improve public health protections against smog, declaring as unsafe the pollution standards that have been in place since 2008. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said she would recommend a reduction in the level of allowable ozone in the atmosphere from the current 75 parts per billion to between 65 ppb and 70 ppb.
Earlier this year, EPA’s advisory board of independent scientists and doctors unanimously recommended that EPA adopt a standard between 60 ppb and 70 ppb.
The following is a statement by John Walke, Clean Air Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council:
''This long-awaited action bodes well for all Americans, including the millions of asthma sufferers, children and seniors--the most vulnerable among us. Yet there's medical evidence of adverse health effects even at the lower end of the range recommended by the scientists. So we urge EPA to set the standard at 60 ppb.''
EPA will now take public comments on the 60-70 ppb range. The agency should finalize standards by a court-ordered deadline of October, 2015, and states will have up to 2020 to develop plans to implement the standards. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to review ozone standards at least every five years to see if they comport with the latest science.
Ozone, the main component of smog, is a dangerous air pollutant created when strong sunlight strikes emissions from vehicle tailpipes, power plants and factories. When people inhale ozone, it burns their lungs and airways, making them swollen and inflamed. In children with asthma, it makes asthma attacks more frequent. Bronchitis and emphysema sufferers, children and teens, as well as senior citizens, are all especially vulnerable to ozone’s health impacts. It hurts healthy people too, like joggers and outdoor workers. Ozone causes excessive hospitalizations and emergency room visits and millions of lost school and work days.
According to the American Lung Association, “Research shows that breathing ozone can shorten human life — can kill — at levels currently considered safe."