News & Events

Who's Right on Smog and Clean Air Standards? Obama or His EPA?

Monday, December 19, 2011

In September, President Obama announced that his administration would not adopt the new ozone standard recommended by EPA after a two-year review of the 2008 Bush administration standard.

EPA head Lisa Jackson had been pushing hard for the updated standard to replace the 2008 model, which the American Lung Association says “failed to protect public health, failed to follow the scientific community’s recommendations, and was legally indefensible.”

Ground-level ozone is a primary component in the creation of smog. As we note on the Air Quality facts page at AirQualityAction.org, people with lung disease, children, older adults, and people who are active can be affected when ozone levels are unhealthy. Numerous scientific studies have linked ground-level ozone exposure to a variety of problems, including:

Airway irritation, coughing, and pain when taking a deep breath

Wheezing and breathing difficulties during exercise or outdoor activities

Inflammation, which is much like a sunburn on the skin

Aggravation of asthma and increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis

Permanent lung damage with repeated exposures.

Healthy people also experience difficulty in breathing when exposed to ozone pollution. Because ozone pollution usually forms in hot weather, anyone who spends time outdoors in the summer may be affected.

As the ALA notes, “By choosing to ignore the recommendations of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), the President is failing to follow the nation’s landmark air pollution law, the Clean Air Act, and therefore failing to protect public health, particularly those most at risk including children, older people, and people who suffer from chronic lung diseases. For these people, breathing smog-polluted air can lead to coughing and wheezing, restricted airways, hospitalization and even death. Even healthy young adults and people who exercise or work outdoors can suffer from high levels of ozone pollution.”

All Americans, especially those already most at-risk from smog pollution, deserve the kind of protection ALA and EPA have called for. The President’s position on this issue is predicated by the false notion that tougher standards will adversely impact job creation. Remind the President that the creation of greener, cleaner jobs was at one time a top priority for his administration, and that his decision to punt on better smog standards is misguided and puts millions of Americans at needless risk.