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American Lung Association Responds to EPA Ozone Standard Update, Impact on Public Health

Today, in response to the updated National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone announced by the Obama Administration, Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association, issued the following statement:

“For far too long, our nation has been living with an outdated standard that has left millions of Americans in harm’s way, breathing unsafe levels of ozone pollution, the nation’s most widespread air pollutant and a primary component of smog. This new standard is a step in the right direction. Once met, the standard will prevent childhood asthma attacks, missed days of work and school, and premature deaths.

“Ozone irritates and inflames the respiratory system. Scientists, physicians and the health community at large have long recognized ozone’s potential to cause premature death. Unsafe levels of ozone can cause difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing and asthma attacks, and can result in a trip to the emergency room and admission to the hospital.

“Given the health threats from ozone, greater health protections are clearly needed. The level chosen of 70 parts per billion (ppb) simply does not reflect what the science shows is necessary to truly protect public health. Protecting the public health is the fundamental requirement of the national standard under the Clean Air Act, and saving lives and protecting health should be the only consideration, based on the law. Of the levels that were under consideration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an ozone limit of 60 ppb would have given Americans much greater health protections. According to EPA’s proposal, a 60 ppb standard would have prevented up to 1.8 million asthma attacks in children, 1.9 million school days missed, and 7,900 premature deaths nationwide.

“The EPA’s independent scientific advisors reviewed the evidence and concluded that a level of 60 ppb would provide more public health protection than a standard of 70 ppb. Furthermore, leading medical and health organizations and more than 1,000 health and medical professionals continuously voiced strong support for a standard at 60 ppb.

“The health standard forms the basis for daily air pollution alerts nationwide. Many parents of children with asthma rely on these alerts to help them decide whether or not it’s safe for their child to spend time outside. Under the new standard many sensitive populations will be at risk on moderate code yellow days.

“Nonetheless, the standard announced today offers significantly greater protection than the previous, outdated standard of 75 ppb. The American Lung Association urges Members of Congress to defend the Clean Air Act against any attacks that would block, weaken or delay life-saving protections from ozone pollution.

“Polling shows that the public supports an updated standard. The data reveal that an overwhelming 73 percent of voters support the EPA placing stricter limits on the amount of smog that power plants, oil refineries and other industrial facilities can release.

“The Lung Association urges the EPA to implement the updated standard. We will continue to push toward a stronger standard that both follows the science and fully protects health with a margin of safety for the most vulnerable among us: children, anyone with asthma, seniors, people with low incomes and people who work or play outside.”

For more information, contact:

Allison MacMunn
312-801-7628
[email protected]

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