U.S. EPA Proposes Stronger Ozone Standards

Health standard aligns with level of protection urged by lung doctors


Raviya Ismail, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 221 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed new ozone standards that would require dramatic pollution cuts in the air people breathe. Ozone is the main component of urban smog.

The standards proposed by EPA today match prior recommendations of the agency’s science advisors that were rejected by the Bush administration. Earthjustice filed a 2008 lawsuit challenging the Bush action, a suit that has been put on hold to allow the Obama EPA to reconsider the standards.

The current federal health standard (NAAQS) limits exposure of the public to no more than 75 parts per billion (ppb) of ozone averaged over 8 hours. EPA is now proposing to tighten that limit to a range of 60-70 ppb. EPA’s science advisors have unanimously called for setting the health standard within this range. Fifteen of the nation’s leading health organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have urged that the standard be set at 60 ppb. EPA is also proposing a separate standard to protect forests and plants from ozone damage.

Ozone is linked to premature deaths, thousands of emergency room visits, and tens of thousands of asthma attacks each year. The pollutant is especially dangerous to small children and senior citizens, who are often warned to stay indoors on polluted days. Ozone pollution can also cause substantial damage to trees and plants, stunting their growth, making them much more susceptible to disease, and leading to the yellowing or mottling of leaves.

The following statement is by David Baron, Earthjustice attorney:

“We applaud EPA’s proposal of stronger standards to protect our lungs from dirty air. These are standards that lung doctors tell us we need to make breathing safe. 

“The law requires clean air standards to protect people’s health with a margin of safety, and the current standards don’t do that.

“We also welcome EPA’s proposal of a separate standard to protect forests and parks from ozone damage. According to the National Park Service, ozone pollution causes widespread tree damage and severely impacts forest growth. Both the Park Service and EPA’s science advisors have called for a strong separate standard to protect our forests from ozone pollution. When the National Park Service says that dirty air is damaging our national parks, EPA is right to take action. To comply with the law, EPA will need to ensure that its final standards are strong enough to protect our lungs and our forests.” 

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