Statement of the American Lung Association on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal for the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Ozone

(January 7, 2010)

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

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal that can lead to much cleaner, healthier air across our nation.  The Agency has recommended lowering the nation's official limit on the amount of ozone considered safe to breathe, called the national ambient air quality standard.  Ozone, often known as smog, is one of the most dangerous gases polluting our communities—and the most widespread. 

With today's announcement, EPA is following the overwhelming evidence that our nation needs a stronger ozone standard.  EPA owes this protection to the millions who live where ozone smog sends children to the emergency room and shortens the lives of people with chronic lung disease. We urge the Agency to adopt the strongest, most protective standard when they make the final decision in August.

Nearly two years ago, EPA selected a standard for ozone that was too weak—allowing far more pollution than compelling research said was safe. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set the health-based national air quality standard to protect children, older adults, and people with lung disease.  The Act requires EPA to set the standard where it will protect public health, and then to add a margin of safety to provide a strong shield against harm. 

The Lung Association and our colleagues immediately took legal action to require EPA to reconsider their decision. This past year, EPA agreed to take another look.  After all, the EPA's own independent science advisors had repeatedly emphasized the need for a stronger standard than the one adopted in 2008.  Today, EPA proposed the range that their advisors had long recommended. 

Ozone air pollution threatens the health of infants, children, seniors, and people with asthma and other lung diseases. For them, smog-polluted air can lead to breathing problems, aggravated asthma, emergency room and hospital visits and even an early death.  Fortunately, the benefits of cleaner air are also clear—fewer children with asthma will go to the emergency room, fewer adults with lung disease will die from breathing polluted air.

Millions of children, older adults and people with chronic lung diseases need EPA to defend them.  We urge EPA to set the final standard where it provides the greatest safeguards to the most people.

In the coming months, EPA will conduct public hearings on the issue. The American Lung Association will be there to urge adoption of an ozone standard that follows the science and the law.  The final ozone smog standard is too critical to the health of millions to do otherwise. 

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.