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Strong Ozone Standard Would Be a Breath of Fresh Air

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View Brian Smith's blog posts
23 June 2011, 1:04 PM
Decision delayed three times for periods now totaling almost a year
A smoggy day in Los Angeles.

When Lisa Jackson took the reins as administration of the Environmental Protection Agency, she issued a memo to staff stating that:

"Science must be the compass guiding our environmental protection decisions. We cannot make the best decisions unless we have confidence in the integrity of the science on which we rely. Therefore, it is my promise that scientific integrity will be the backbone of my leadership of the Agency."

While she does seem serious about this commitment, and has made some great decisions, the question now is whether the White House will let her do her job. A big test is coming with the adoption of new health standards on ground level-ozone (smog).

The federal standard for ground-level ozone (75 parts per billion over an 8-hour period) was set during the Bush administration. Earthjustice sued because the Bush standard ignored the best science and still doesn’t protect public health with a margin of safety.

EPA’s own science advisors recommended a standard in the range of 60-70 ppb. The nation’s leading medical groups, including the American Medical Association, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have called for a standard at low (most protective) end of this range. A stronger standard is opposed by industrial polluters and their friends in Washington, D.C. These interests are putting enormous pressure on the White House to ignore the science and either delay or reject adoption of a health-protective standard.

The EPA’s own models predict that a 60 ppb standard would save up to 12,000 lives annually, prevent 58,000 asthma attacks, avoid 21,000 hospital visits and prevent hundreds of thousands of lost school and work days.

EPA has said a final decision on the new ozone health standard is expected in July 2011. Unfortunately, politics could crowd out science.

What has public health groups worried is that EPA has already delayed this decision three times for periods now totaling almost a year.


"In New York City we are currently trying to pass a local law allowing vulnerable populations to take paid days off when there are ozone alert days"

That is a truly brilliant idea. I hope the effort spreads nationwide.

When industries use our kids as air filters, they should at least pay a little rent.

This is all too true but there needs to be more done then just setting a lower standard. Most major cities in the United States stay above the current standard throughout their summers making them extremely dangerous for vulnerable populations such as children, elderly and those who suffer from respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis. In New York City we are currently trying to pass a local law allowing vulnerable populations to take paid days off when there are ozone alert days, but these are only called five times each summer when the average day the ozone level is around 80 ppb. Studies show that even at 60 ppb healthy people can have decreased lung function after long periods outside. The EPA needs to start getting serious about their ozone regulations.

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