EPA Announces Public Health Standards to Protect Americans from Smog

EDF Applauds Needed Action for Updated, Health-Based Clean Air Standards

November 26, 2014


Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org
Elena Craft, 512-691-3462, ecraft@edf.org 

(Washington, D.C. – November 26, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today took an important step toward protecting millions of Americans from smog.

EPA unveiled a proposal to update our national air quality standards for ground-level ozone, which is more commonly known as smog.

“As we gather with family and friends for the holidays, all Americans can be especially thankful for this important step to reduce smog and secure healthier and longer lives,” said Fred Krupp, president of EDF. “Smog is a dangerous air pollutant that is linked to asthma attacks and other serious heart and lung diseases. Our nation has the innovation and the determination we need to follow the medical science, and protect our children and communities from dangerous smog pollution.”

EPA is proposing updating our national smog standards from their current level of 75 parts per billion to 65 to 70 parts per billion. EPA is also seeking comments on establishing a health standard of 60 parts per billion, and the scientific record shows that this level would provide the strongest public health protections for Americans. EDF recommends that EPA carry out its responsibility under our nation’s clean air laws to follow the science and adopt the health-based standards that will adequately protect all Americans from dangerous smog. 

60 to 70 parts per billion is the health-based range recommended by the statutorily-established Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, an independent panel of the nation’s leading scientists.

Reducing smog consistent with EPA’s proposal would, in the year 2025:

  • Prevent up to 4,300 premature deaths
  • Prevent up to 960,000 asthma attacks among children
  • Prevent up to 2,300 cases of acute bronchitis among children
  • Prevent up to one million days when kids miss school
  • Provide up to $38 billion in public health benefits

EPA will also accept comments on keeping the existing smog standard, which is 75 parts per billion. However, an extensive body of scientific evidence — including the recommendations of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and the recommendations of leading medical and health associations like the American Lung Association and the American Thoracic Society – finds that lowering the allowable levels of smog pollution is necessary to protect human health, and finds that exposure to ground-level ozone at the current level of 75 parts per billion can cause serious threats to human health.

The U.S. has already taken steps over the past few years that help to cost-effectively reduce smog pollution and help restore healthy air. Those protections include the Tier 3 tailpipe standards, supported by the U.S. auto industry, which will slash smog-forming pollution from new cars beginning in model year 2017, and EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan which will reduce smog-forming pollutants from power plant smokestacks nationwide.

There will be a 90-day comment period on the proposed updated smog standards. EPA is expected to issue a final decision by Oct. 1, 2015. Read more about today’s proposal on EPA’s website.

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