EPA Decision to Retain Weak Carbon Monoxide Air Quality Standards Fails to Protect Public Health

Targeted Roadside Monitoring Network to Let Public Know Where Unhealthy Air Exists in Communities

Washington, D.C. (August 15, 2011)

Statement of Charles D. Connor, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Lung Association

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today reaffirmed the current the national air quality limits for carbon monoxide air pollution, and missed the opportunity to strengthen this standard. This is a disappointing step, and a sad 40th anniversary for these weak national standards, set in 1971. In this decision, EPA did not accept the Agency’s own evidence that the 1971 standards cannot protect public health, which is the sole purpose of the air quality standards. Nor did the EPA follow the recommendation by independent expert scientists who advise them, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, to adopt stronger, more protective standards.

EPA did target the monitoring for this dangerous pollutant, a critical step to let the public know where unhealthy levels of this dangerous pollutant are in their communities. More than 45 million people who attend school, live near, commute, or work on or near transportation routes have their health placed at risk by exposure to carbon monoxide and other traffic pollutants. Lack of adequate monitoring has meant that they cannot adequately know the threats to their health, and has limited research and cleanup.

All areas in the nation currently comply with the 1971 standards. Levels have dropped significantly since the 1970s, thanks to reduced emissions from vehicle exhaust. Yet large, repeated epidemiological studies provide evidence that the public is harmed by carbon monoxide at levels currently found in our nation. EPA noted multiple epidemiological studies that found links between CO exposure well below the existing standards, and harm to public health, including increased risk for hospital admissions for children with asthma and for adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as increased risk to people with cardiovascular disease.

Millions of Americans are unprotected by the current air quality standards for carbon monoxide. Children with asthma and adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) should be free to work or play outdoors without fear that air pollution will trigger asthma attacks or worsen their ability to breathe and send them to the hospital. People who live near or work on or near busy highways should not risk their lives and their health.


About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases.  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-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.