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Obtaining Stronger Smog Standards to Save Lives

Smog covers the city of Los Angeles, CA.

Smog covers the city of Los Angeles, CA.

Metropolitan Transportation Library Archive Photo

What’s at Stake

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.

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.

Case Updates

February 11, 2021 | Legal Document

American Academy of Pediatrics et al v US EPA

Fourteen health and environmental groups, half of them represented by Earthjustice, challenged ozone standards in a lawsuit in a federal appeals court. The move comes in response to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Trump administration’s last-minute refusal to strengthen the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, or NAAQS, for ozone, and less than a month after Earthjustice sued the EPA over a similar rule affecting particulate matter.