EPA Proposes New Ozone Standard

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a new standard for ozone pollution. The standard will be within the range of 65 to 70 parts per billion (ppb). The actual number has not yet been established, and the EPA will take comments on a standard as low as 60 ppb.

Health scientists advising the EPA recommend a standard in the range of 60-70 parts per billion (ppb). In 2008, the EPA under President George W. Bush ignored that advice, proposing a standard of 75 ppb. That standard was successfully challenged in court and was never implemented. The court directed to EPA to propose a new standard within the appropriate range.

EPA’s analysis shows that a standard in the range of 65 to 70 ppb will prevent:

  • From 320,000 to 960,000 asthma attacks in children.
  • From 330,000 to 1 million missed school days.
  • From 750 to 4,300 premature deaths in children and adults.
  • From 1,400 to 4,300 asthma-related emergency room visits.
  • From 65,000 to 180,000 missed workdays.

The standard is good news for Houstonians, who have suffered for decades from ozone pollution. A final rule on the lower end of the proposed range will provide the best opportunity for pollution reductions. Although recent ozone seasons have been mild, that is likely due more to low temperatures that any recent reductions in pollutants. The truth is that the pollutants that cause ozone formation have not been reduced in Houston in recent years.

Ozone pollution is linked to everything from coughing and shortness of breath to asthma, heart attacks, and death. Children, the elderly, and people with respiratory illnesses are most impacted by ozone pollution. In children, ozone can cause asthma, impair lung development, and lead to reduced lung function and low birth weight in newborns.

Rice University researchers studying the impact of Houston air pollution on public find there is strong evidence of increased asthma attacks and cardiac arrests due to elevated ozone levels.  Their findings are derived from 911 calls to the City of Houston over a ten-year period.

Learn more about the new standard from the EPA.