Green Cities

Are new smog standards enough?

According to the American Lung Association (ALA), inhaling smog pollution is like getting a sunburn on your lungs and often results in immediate breathing trouble. Is the Obama’s Administration new sunscreen high enough?

Today the Obama Administration made the first step to improve America’s national air quality standard for ground-level ozone – more commonly known as smog – while falling short in adequately protecting public health. Obama Administration unveiled an update to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for smog pollution and set the level at 70 parts per billion (ppb). This new standard updates the level established by the Bush Administration in 2008. The American Thoracic Society found that a “less protective standard of 70 ppb would result in 3,752 more premature deaths annually” as compared to the more protective standard recommended by scientists.

Lowering the smog standard from 75 ppb to 70 ppb is a first step but it is not enough. Indeed EPA’s independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee found that at 70 ppb there is “substantial scientific evidence of adverse effects … including decrease in lung function, increase in respiratory symptoms, and increase in airway inflammation.” Over the past seven years, scientists, medical experts, and public health advocates have consistently called for a stronger standard of 60 ppb and have pointed to an ever-growing body of scientific literature that demonstrates the significant harm the current standard does to public health, particularly to vulnerable populations like children, seniors, and people with respiratory illnesses like asthma.

Oriane Montin, Intern