Ozone is a severe lung irritant, linked by health studies to premature deaths, increased risk of asthma attacks, lung damage, and reduction in lung function. Young children and people with lung ailments are at special risk from ozone pollution, and they are warned to limit outdoor activity when ozone levels are high.
Earthjustice attorney David Baron issued the following statement regarding today's announcement:
"Scientists are now telling us that ozone is much more dangerous to our lungs than previously thought. We urge EPA to heed the advice of the health experts and strengthen the standards so we can all breathe easier.
"Existing federal health standards for smog are too weak to protect public health. EPA is currently reviewing the standards under a court-ordered schedule in a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice on behalf of health and environmental groups, including the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club. An EPA scientific panel of 23 experts unanimously recommended last October that EPA greatly strengthen the standard for ozone, the major component of smog, from its current level of 0.080 parts per million to between 0.070 ppm and 0.060 ppm.
"In September, EPA Administrator Steve Johnson rejected a recommendation of his science advisors, the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association, and a host of other public health groups that he strengthen the annual clean air standard for another pollutant - airborne particulate matter, including soot. The stronger standards had been opposed by industry groups.
"It's time for EPA to base standards on sound science instead of political science. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to adopt standards strong enough to protect public health. We hope this time EPA will listen to the health experts and ensure the clean air Americans deserve."
Under the court-ordered schedule, EPA must propose action on the ozone standard by June and take final action in early 2008.