Smog kills even more people than previously thought

As Ozone Decision Looms, EPA Finds Stronger Science

By GABRIEL NELSON of Greenwire

This is an excerpt; read entire article here.

Recent studies suggest that smog-filled air kills more people and causes more breathing problems than previously thought, U.S. EPA scientists say in a new draft paper, but due to a procedural twist, the findings can’t be taken into account as Administrator Lisa Jackson decides whether to set stricter limits than the George W. Bush administration chose in 2008.

The new research provides stronger evidence that short-term spikes in ground-level ozone can cause premature death, according to the 996-page scientific assessment, which was released late Friday. And on top of that, EPA scientists found evidence that long-term exposure could lead to more premature deaths — a conclusion that was not reached when the agency last reviewed the state of smog science in 2006.

It is well-established that ozone can have health effects at the current limit of 84 parts per billion (ppb), which still has not been met in parts of the Northeast, much of Southern California and industrial cities such as Houston. According to the assessment, recent studies found a robust link between health effects and smog levels below either the current limit or the standard of 75 ppb that was selected by the last administration.

Environmental and public health groups said the most recent studies show why the Obama administration should move this summer to tighten the national limits on smog even further, as EPA originally proposed doing last year (Greenwire, Jan. 7, 2010).

When the last science assessment was reviewed in 2007, groups such as the American Lung Association were already calling for a standard of 60 ppb, at the bottom of the range recommended by agency scientists.

“The new evidence I’ve seen has only underscored that,” said Janice Nolen, the group’s director of national policy.

“If the Clean Air Act really means what it says, which is ‘provide protection with a margin of safety,’ then 60 [ppb] is the minimum,” she said in an interview. “We look at these studies, and there’s clear evidence of harm to healthy adults at 60 — then, how are you providing protection for kids with asthma? For older people? For people with lung disease? The evidence is just piling up.”

Read the entire article here.

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