EPA needs to end the delay and protect public health from ozone

Statement of the American Lung Association

Washington, D.C. (January 21, 2014)

Today, the American Lung Association asked a federal court to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to complete the review of the national air quality standards for ozone as required by the Clean Air Act.  The longer Americans must wait for the EPA to strengthen the standards, the longer they must breathe air pollution that shortens their lives, worsens lung disease, makes it harder for them to breathe, and threatens cardiovascular harm.

The EPA’s failure to meet the legal deadline has forced the American Lung Association to request the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to tell EPA to end the delay and protect public health. The stakes are high for those most at risk from unhealthy levels of ozone. Children and people with lung diseases such as asthma are especially vulnerable. Even healthy adults who work or exercise outdoors may be harmed. 

The EPA missed the March 2013 deadline required under the Clean Air Act to complete the review of the current science and set official limits on the amount of ozone that can be in the air while protecting public health. In today’s action, the Lung Association joined with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Sierra Club, all represented by Earthjustice, to seek court-ordered deadlines for the EPA to complete the work.

Today’s action does not address the level of the ozone standard. Rather, the Lung Association is asking the Court to set dates when the EPA must propose and set the final standards. All interested parties will be able to provide comments on the proposed standards.  

Since the EPA completed its last review in 2008, growing research, including large multi-city studies, make it abundantly clear that the EPA must tighten the standard to protect public health. Newer research demonstrates definitively that breathing ozone harms the respiratory system where it causes wheezing, coughing, and worsened asthma.  Recent research also warns that ozone is likely to cause cardiovascular harm.  Breathing ozone may also harm the central nervous system and may cause reproductive and developmental harm.  Most troubling of all, the evidence shows that breathing elevated levels of ozone can increase the risk of premature death at levels well below the current standard.

Further, evidence warns that changes in climate are likely to increase the risk of unhealthy ozone levels in the future in large parts of the United States. Fortunately, stronger standards drive the cleanup of ozone pollution. Thanks to cleanup measures put in place to meet the standards, the nation has reduced ozone on average by 25 percent since 1980, according to the EPA.

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About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lung.org.