From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published January 11, 2010 05:13 PM

EPA to Improve Ozone Standards

The US Environmental Protection Agency is proposing the strictest health standards to date for smog. Smog, also known as ground-level ozone, is linked to a number of serious health problems, ranging from aggravation of asthma to increased risk of premature death in people with heart or lung disease. Ozone can even harm healthy people who work and play outdoors. The agency is proposing to replace the standards set by the previous administration, which many believe were not protective enough of human health.

Ozone pollution is created when chemicals from cars, power plants, and factories mix with sunlight. That's why ozone tends to be higher in sunnier climates or during hot weather. It is a main part of smog, that brownish-yellow haze sometimes seen hanging over cities on the horizon.


Ozone in the upper atmosphere is protective of the environment by blocking UV light.  Too much ozone at the ground level may lead to smog with negative environmental and health effects.

"EPA is stepping up to protect Americans from one of the most persistent and widespread pollutants we face.  Smog in the air we breathe poses a very serious health threat, especially to children and individuals suffering from asthma and lung disease.  It dirties our air, clouds our cities, and drives up our health care costs across the country," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. 

"Using the best science to strengthen these standards is a long overdue action that will help millions of Americans breathe easier and live healthier.  The agency is proposing to set the primary standard, which protects public health, at a level between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million (ppm) measured over eight hours. The last standard was set in 2008 and was 0.075. 

Adults with asthma or other lung diseases, and older adults as well as children are sensitive to ozone.EPA is also proposing to set a separate secondary standard to protect the environment, especially plants and trees. This seasonal standard is designed to protect plants and trees from damage occurring from repeated ozone exposure, which can reduce tree growth, damage leaves, and increase susceptibility to disease. 

As part of its reconsideration, EPA conducted a review of the science that guided the 2008 decision, including more than 1,700 scientific studies and public comments from the 2008 rule making process. EPA also reviewed the findings of the independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which recommended standards in the ranges proposed today.

According to EPA, the costs of reducing ozone to 0.070 ppm would range from an estimated $19 billion to $25 billion per year in 2020. For a standard of 0.060 ppm, the costs would range from $52 billion to $90 billion.  This is with known or present technology as opposed to new technologies.

The annual control technology costs of implementing known controls as part of a strategy to attain a standard in the proposed range of 0.060 ppm or 0.070 ppm in 2020 would be approximately $3.3 billion to $4.5 billion.  The benefits would be a reduction in health caused illnesses and restrictions.  for example EPA estimated between 44,000 to 111,000 less upper and lower respiratory symptoms and 23,000 to 58.000 less aggravated asthma cases.

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