EPA Proposes Tough New Smog Rules

Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed what could be this country’s “strictest-ever <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/toxic_substances">smog limits,” said the Seattle Times. According to the Seattle Times, the proposal could place a number of counties in that state alone in violation of federal air quality mandates.

The proposal involves cutting the legal ground-level ozone concentration, which is measured over eight hours, said the Seattle Times. The level, if the proposal is accepted, would drop from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to between 60 and 70 ppbs, explained the Seattle Times, a level in keeping with what was recommended by the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. Ozone standards have been at public issue since early 2008 after the agency set a more lenient limit that that was unanimously suggested by that committee. President George W. Bush also stepped in at the eleventh hour to cut the proposal to a more lenient—and many believe, dangerous—75 ppb, reported the Seattle Times.

We previously wrote that a review conducted by the National Academy of Sciences in 2008 concluded that short-term exposure to smog—or ozone—is not only definitively linked to premature deaths, this information should also be taken into account when measuring the health benefits of reducing air pollution. The findings contradict arguments made by some Bush administration White House officials who argued that a link between smog and premature death was not sufficiently established and that the number of saved lives should not be calculated in determining clean air benefits.

The panel—which examined short-term (24-hour) exposure to high ozone levels—also said that “studies have yielded strong evidence that short-term exposure to ozone can exacerbate lung conditions, causing illness and hospitalization and can potentially lead to death.” Ozone exposure is a leading cause of respiratory illnesses and especially affects the elderly, those with respiratory problems, and children. Ground-level ozone is formed from nitrogen oxide and organic compounds that result from burning fossil fuels and presents as yellow haze or smog that lingers in the air.

The new proposal would involve stricter regulations at power plants, factories, motor vehicles, and landfills and, according to the EPA, could run upwards of $90 billion to ensure compliance, said the Seattle Times. According to the Obama administration, the more stringent standards are in line with what experts find are necessary to reduce health risks and could lead to a savings of $100 billion in health costs; environmental groups agree, reported the Seattle Times.

If the standard was maintained at the median proposed level—65 ppb—thousands of premature deaths could be prevented in the U.S. by 2020, versus the 75 ppb standard for which the former president so ardently pushed, said the Seattle Times. Also, 26,000 aggravated asthma cases and over one million lost work and school days would be prevented, versus the existing standard, added Seattle Times, among other health savings.

The EPA proposal includes a “secondary standard” that would protect trees and plants from ongoing exposure to ozone during growing seasons. The proposal, said the Seattle Times, is in the public comment phase.

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