A Better Ozone Standard From the EPA — Is It Enough?

Back in 2007, a panel of scientists decided that to protect public health the national ambient air quality standard for ground-level ozone standard should be between 60 and 70 parts per billion. The scientists were part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), a group of air quality and health experts selected to advise the agency on air pollution standards. That was 2007. Last week, their recommendation was finally acted upon. But does the science still say that 70 ppb is enough?

When I was working in academia several years ago, I studied ozone and its association with human health effects. I read through dozens of papers quantifying this relationship and I saw in my own data that ozone had real health impacts. The unique thing about ozone compared to other ambient air pollutants is that it spreads far and wide. You don’t need to live or work in a city center to be subject to its effects. If it’s a bad air day in Queens, it’s likely also a bad air day in Greenwich, Connecticut. Because of this, large portions of the populations are subject to ozone’s health effects, including respiratory irritation, asthma aggravation, and the potential for permanent lung damage. These health outcomes disproportionately affect sensitive populations including children, the elderly, and individuals with lung diseases.

My research was part of hundreds of studies that go into the EPA’s exhaustive assessment of ozone science that the agency uses to set the standard. The Integrated Science Assessment, along with CASAC’s advice, help ensure the EPA can set a standard based on public health every five years, as its obligated to under the Clean Air Act. Despite this obligation, the 2007 EPA set the standard at 75 ppb, higher than —> Read More