Obtaining Stronger Smog Standards to Save Lives

Ozone — also known as smog — is an air pollutant linked to tens of thousands of premature deaths, emergency room visits and asthma attacks each year. It also is highly damaging to trees and plants, causing major impacts to the nation’s forests and agricultural productivity.

Case Overview

The air is easier to breathe today due to the protections provided by the Clean Air Act, but there are still over 130 million Americans living with areas that have dangerous levels of ozone pollution. Sometimes called smog, ozone is linked to premature deaths, damages plants and forests, and stunts tree and crop growth. Formed by emissions from cars, trucks, and factories, ozone is also a greenhouse gas, and curtailing it is a powerful way to help solve the climate crisis.

In 2008, the Bush administration adopted standards that limit ozone in the air to 75 parts per billion (ppb). The standards fell woefully short of protecting public health, and top science advisors and medical organizations agreed that stronger ozone standards were needed to save lives and prevent sickness. These standards adopted were far weaker than the unanimous recommendations of the agency’s own science advisors, leaving public health and the environment at significant risk. Earthjustice challenged the 2008 standards on the ground that EPA’s action was arbitrary and contrary to language and purpose of the Clean Air Act.

Since then, Earthjustice has filed a series of court actions over multiple administrations for more than a decade to strengthen national air quality standards against harmful air pollution.

Smog covers the city of Los Angeles, CA.
Smog covers the city of Los Angeles, CA. (Metropolitan Transportation Library Archive)

Case Updates

March 22, 2024 In the News: WHRO

Stricter federal air pollution standards likely won’t help Hampton Roads communities plagued by coal dust

Seth Johnson, Attorney, Washington, D.C., Office: “Strengthening a standard is really important. It’s really important to set that benchmark and tell people, ‘This is what counts as safe air.’ But if you don’t know what the air quality actually is, the impact of the standard is going to be not as great as it could be.”

Map of soot air pollution by county in 2022.
February 7, 2024 feature

Mapping Soot and Smog Pollution in the United States

How is the air where you live?

Map of smog air pollution by county in 2022.
November 29, 2023 feature

What’s the state of smog pollution where you live?

Search by county to see the level of smog pollution in the air. Smog can trigger asthma attacks and increase the risk of heart and lung diseases.