Stronger Ozone Standard Could Dramatically Reduce Asthma, Premature Deaths

EDF Testifies 20 Million+ Residents in South Coast, San Joaquin Valley Would Benefit

February 4, 2010
Contact: 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Lori Sinsley, (415) 293-6097-w, (415) 902-8111-c, lsinsley@edf.org

(Sacramento – February 4, 2010) Environmental Defense Fund testified today that strengthening the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone pollution from 75 to 60 parts per billion (ppb) would reduce premature death rates by 60-fold and reduce asthma cases 50-fold, according to analyses by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The testimony is being given at an EPA public hearing to reconsider the adequacy of a controversial national ozone air quality standard adopted by the Agency in 2008.

"The bottom line is that overwhelming evidence shows that ozone dramatically affects public health, can kill people, has an economic cost to our country, and impairs our environment and quality of life," testified EDF policy analyst Camille Kustin during the last of three EPA public hearings on the ozone standard. "The current standard of 75 parts per billion is not supported by science and will continue to put tens of millions of Californians and Americans at risk. It is unacceptable."

In 2008, the Bush administration EPA selected the 75 ppb standard, sharply departing from the analyses prepared by EPA staff and the expert opinion of an EPA-appointed panel of the nation's leading experts, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). The committee unanimously recommended a range of 60-70 ppb for the ozone standard to protect public health. Today, EPA is reconsidering the adequacy of the 2008 standard to protect human health and the environment.

Kustin noted that more than 20 million residents in the heavily polluted South Coast and San Joaquin Valley air basins face significant health risks from poor air quality. The annual cost of asthma nationwide is estimated to be nearly $18 billion, with direct costs (hospitalizations the single largest portion of direct cost) accounting for nearly $10 billion and indirect costs (lost earnings due to illness or death) of $8 billion, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

"The National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone must provide an adequate margin of safety to protect these vulnerable populations," added Kustin. "We request the EPA establish a national air quality standard for ozone that protects the children, the elderly and the millions of Californians and Americans with asthma that is exacerbated by smog pollution."

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Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 700,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. For more information, visit www.edf.org.