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EPA's Final National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Ozone is a Missed Opportunity

October 1, 2015 -- Today, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a lower National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone of 70 parts per billion (ppb)/8-hours daily maximum concentration. While today’s announcement represents progress towards improving our nation’s air quality and the overall health of the American public, the selection of 70 ppb ignores the compelling evidence that a more protective standard is needed.

Since 2007, the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and the medical community have supported an even lower 8-hour ozone standard of 60 ppb to best protect public health. The ATS, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and several other medical professional groups recommend a more protective standard of 60 ppb.

“Ozone air pollution is a widespread threat to the health of Americans, and is especially dangerous for vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, those with preexisting respiratory and cardiovascular disease, outdoor workers, and low-income families,” said George Thurston, ScD, chair of the ATS Environmental Health Policy Committee. “Since ATS began advocating for a lower ozone standard almost a decade ago, the scientific evidence supporting this reduction has strengthened considerably, particularly in regards to ozone’s effects on mortality and lung function.”

“Today’s decision, while a step towards improving America’s air quality, is inadequate. EPA failed to fully follow the science and the requirements of the Clean Air Act, and ultimately fell short of its mission to fully protect Americans from air pollution.”

Recent evidence linking ozone pollution and adverse health effects includes studies showing dose-response relationships between ozone exposure and hospital admissions for asthma in children and hospital admissions for asthma and COPD in adults, lung function deficits in healthy adults exposed to ozone at levels between 60 and 70 ppb, and an increased mortality risk associated with ozone exposure, primarily affecting the elderly and people with chronic diseases.

Following the EPA’s recent adoption of new standards for motor vehicle emissions, cleaner fuels, and carbon emissions from power plants, a stricter ozone standard would significantly improve public health and save lives.