EPA To Issue Final Ruling On Stricter Standards For Ozone Pollution

Article courtesy of the St. Louis

Regional Clean Air Partnership


As residents endure another hazy St. Louis summer, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is preparing to make its final ruling on a stricter standard for ground-level ozone aimed at improving air quality and lung health nationwide.

A decision on a tougher National Ambient Air Quality standard that will fall between 60 and 70 parts per billion is expected this month. The standard will replace ground-level ozone limits set in 2008, which many felt were not strict enough to protect human health.

“Two years ago, the National Ambient Air Quality standard was lowered from 84 parts per billion to 75 parts per billion,” explained Susannah Fuchs, Senior Director of Environmental Health for the American Lung Association of the Plains-Gulf Region. “That standard was highly criticized because it wasn’t enough to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. As a result, we’re anxiously awaiting the EPA’s new ruling because the proposed standards are the strictest to date for ozone, and they have the potential to greatly improve the nation’s air quality and the health of many over time.”

Ground-level ozone pollution is created when emissions from factories, power plants, landfills and motor vehicles react with the sun.

The EPA cites ground-level ozone as one of the most persistent and widespread pollutants nationwide. And as a result, it can contribute to a variety of health problems. Exposure to ozone causes burning and inflammation in sensitive tissues and acts as a respiratory irritant, causing shortness of breath, chest pain, aggravation of asthma and other respiratory conditions, and an increased risk of premature death in people with heart or lung disease. Children, older adults and those who work outdoors are especially vulnerable to the effects of ozone.

With so many health conditions attributed to ozone exposure, the EPA made the decision to review the ozone standard set in 2008 and determined that the National Ambient Air Quality standard should be further decreased in order to help Americans breathe easier and live healthier lives.

Depending on the final standard that the EPA adopts, it’s estimated that the ruling will yield health benefits worth $13-$100 billion, and will prevent 1,500-12,000 premature deaths by 2020.

“A stricter ozone standard represents positive news for the many children, seniors and other individuals who suffer from asthma and lung disease,” said Fuchs. “While we can celebrate the progress being made by the EPA, it’s still critical for us to do our share to improve air quality. From carpooling and using transit to walking to lunch and choosing more energy-efficient appliances, there are countless steps we can take to reduce emissions, and these efforts all go a long way towards helping area residents breathe easier.”

To learn more about the EPA’s proposed ozone standards, visit www.epa.gov. For tips on improving the region’s air quality, visit www.cleanair-stlouis.com or call the American Lung Association at (314) 645-5505, ext. 1007.