Leading Scientists Find "Strong Evidence" That Ozone Leads to Death

April 22, 2008
Contact: John Balbus – (202) 572-3316 jbalbus@edf.org
             Sean Crowley – (202) 550-6524-c scrowley@edf.org
(Washington, DC – April 22, 2008)  The National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) National Research Council today released the results of a study that found “strong evidence” that ground level ozone (i.e., smog) causes disease and can lead to death. The results are significant because the U.S. government has diminished the role of ozone in contributing to premature death and discounted the societal benefits of clean air measures. The NAS National Research Council study examined key issues related to ground-level ozone and mortality:   
“The committee concludes from its review of the health-based evidence that short-term exposure to ambient ozone is likely to contribute to premature deaths….the evidence is strong enough to be used in the estimation of the expected mortality-reduction benefits of a decrease in exposure to ozone.” See page 2 of National Research Council report, “Estimating Mortality Risk Reduction and Economic Benefits from Controlling Ozone Air Pollution.”
“The nation’s leading scientists have issued a wake up call to the U.S. government to strengthen the clean air measures that will prevent the death and disease from smog air pollution,” said Dr. John Balbus, chief health scientist for Environmental Defense Fund.   
The scientists’ findings could have important consequences.   Indeed, the White House Office of Management and Budget has instructed the staff of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove ozone mortality benefits from major rulemaking initiatives involving reductions in ozone-forming pollution.  
One prominent example is EPA’s development of proposed new emission standards to limit the ozone-forming pollution from gasoline-powered lawnmowers, handheld garden engines, and marine stern drive engines that are a major source of hydrocarbons that contribute extensively to summertime ozone pollution.  See 72 Fed. Reg. 28,098 (May 18, 2007).  
An EPA Staff Email to Mr. David Rostker at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on March 29, 2007 responds to an email from Rostker in which he set forth his objections to quantified ozone mortality benefits in the draft Regulatory Impact Analysis for the proposed emission standards.
The EPA response to OMB’s objection states: “We have removed all references to quantified ozone benefits (including mortality) in the most recent version of the ES.” The EPA document in question was, in fact, finalized with the monetized benefits of reducing ozone removed.  Meanwhile, EPA has yet to finalize the clean air standards for these high-polluting engines.