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EPA Ups Emission Restrictions to Protect Public Health

Based on scientific evidence of the negative impact ground-level ozone pollution or smog has on public health and welfare, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revised the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone to 70 parts per billion (ppb) from 75 ppb, the previous standard from 2008.

Evidence shows that ozone can result in several harmful effects on the respiratory system such as difficulty breathing and inflammation of the body’s airways. Ozone exposure can also cause premature death, while long-term exposure is said to result in the development of asthma.

According to the EPA, this update will improve public health protection, especially for those at risk, including children, older adults and people suffering from lung diseases like asthma. It will also help reduce the number of premature deaths, missed school and work days and asthma attacks.

“Put simply – ozone pollution means it hurts to breathe for those most vulnerable: our kids, our elderly and those suffering from heart and lung ailments,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Our job is to set science-backed standards that protect the health of the American people. Today’s action is one of the most important measures we can take for improving public health, reducing the costs of illness and protecting our children’s health.”

The EPA says local communities, states and the federal government have come a long way in reducing ground-level ozone. Across America, from 1980 to 2014, average ozone levels have dropped 33 percent.

Changes in pollution control technology for vehicles and their industry, as well as other emission reduction standards like “Tier 3” clean vehicle and fuels standards, the Clean Power Plan and the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards will reduce help smog-forming emissions.

The EPA will extend the ozone monitoring season for 32 states and the District of Columbia to ensure that people will be notified when ozone reaches harmful levels.

The agency is also changing the secondary ozone standard to 70 ppb to provide better protection for trees, plants and ecosystems. New studies contribute to evidence showing that repeated exposure to ozone cuts growth and has a harmful impact on plants and trees, threatening the benefits they provide as well.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review the ozone standards every five years to determine if a revision is needed due to scientific advances. Depending on the severity of their ozone, states will have until between 2020 and 2037 to meet the standards.