Data Show Over 170 Million Americans Live In Dangerous Smog Areas

December 2, 2003

(2 December 2003 — Washington)  In a briefing today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that on December 4 the agency will recommended that hundreds of counties nationwide be declared out of compliance with the federal health-based standard for ground-level ozone (smog).  Available data indicate that over 170 million Americans live in areas with smog concentrations that harm public health and the environment.  This action is required under a court-ordered settlement with Environmental Defense, the American Lung Association, and others. 

“EPA has data showing millions of children with asthma and others with lung diseases need greater protection from smog pollution,” said Dr. John Balbus, a physician and director of the Environmental Defense Health Program.  “Only by identifying all the areas that fail to meet basic health standards and helping to create local and regional solutions can the EPA fully protect the public’s health.”

“Over the next few months, there’s going to be enormous pressure on EPA to weaken their recommendations but the agency must vigorously resist negotiating away millions of children’s rights to healthier air,” said Balbus. 

Smog causes millions of asthma attacks each year, harming children and adults with asthma.  Studies consistently show that asthma-related emergency room visits significantly rise on high ozone smog days.  Recent medical research indicates that ozone not only triggers asthma attacks but may be responsible for the development of asthma in children.  

Once final, EPA’s declaration of areas violating the health-based standard for ozone will require affected states to adopt control measures to abate the harmful pollution levels.  Cost-effective strategies to lower ozone-forming pollution include cleaner fuels, cutting smog-forming pollution from power plants and various industrial sources, and pollution retrofit programs for large diesel trucks, buses and construction equipment.