Proposed Smog Pollution Limits Fall Short of Scientific Health Goals

EPA ignores recommendation of its own scientific advisors and proposes a range of levels for smog pollution


David Baron, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500
Paul Cort, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6725

Today the Environmental Protection Agency proposed revised standards for ozone (the main component of smog) that health experts say still do not go far enough to protect our lungs and our health. Under EPA’s proposal, ozone levels could be as high as 75 parts per billion (ppb) — lower than the current standard of 84 ppb — but not as protective as the 60-70 ppb range unanimously recommended by the agency’s independent science advisory panel.

EPA also left open the possibility that it would not strengthen the current standard at all, despite the science panel’s finding that there was no scientific support for such an outcome. Ozone is a severe lung irritant linked to aggravation of asthma, chest pains, increased risk of infection, significant decreases in lung function, increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits, and premature deaths. Hundreds of communities and cities across the country suffer from unsafe ozone levels.

In 2003, Earthjustice, on behalf of national environmental and public health groups, sued to force a deadline for EPA to propose and adopt appropriate changes in national ozone standards. The proposal signed late last night by the EPA comes in response to a court-ordered deadline in that suit.

The following is a statement from David Baron, the Earthjustice attorney handling the deadline suit.

“The science cries out for a stronger standard, but EPA’s proposal simply doesn’t reach it. We now know that ozone pollution is much more dangerous to people’s lungs than previously thought. EPA needs to heed the advice of doctors and health experts from across the country who say we need a standard of 60 ppb to protect children, senior citizens, and other air breathers. The Clean Air Act requires EPA’s standards to be strong enough to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. It’s especially troubling that EPA’s proposal leaves the door open for keeping the current standard in place, when the science advisors unanimously said that’s unacceptable. We strongly urge EPA to do the right thing and adopt limits on smog pollution that clean up the air in our neighborhoods and communities.”

California has some of the dirtiest air in the country. Earthjustice has been fighting for stronger protections for Californians, and the following statement is from Earthjustice attorney Paul Cort, who has worked extensively on clean air issues in the Central Valley and Los Angeles:

“EPA’s proposal fails to adequately protect those one in five children in California’s Central Valley who suffer from asthma. Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley have some of the highest ozone concentrations in the U.S., but EPA’s proposal will not prevent harm to people forced to breathe the dirty air in those areas.”

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