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Strong Ozone Standard Would Be a Breath of Fresh Air

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.

About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.