The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updated the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone earlier this month. The ozone standard was updated from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb. Ozone is created when nitrogen oxides react with volatile organic compounds in the air. The EPA states that the strengthened standards will “reduce Americans’ exposure to ozone, improving public health protection, particularly for at risk groups including children, older adults, and people of all ages who have lung diseases such as asthma”.
After the examination of almost 2,300 studies on ozone, the EPA concluded that 75 ppb was not sufficient to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. Ozone levels have decreased by 33% from 1980 to 2014, even with a growing economy. This can be attributed to advances in pollution control technology for vehicles and industry, along with emission reduction standards for vehicles, power plants, and fuels.
“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 expects that the majority of counties will comply with the new standard by 2025. However, the rule allows for areas to have until between 2020 and 2037 to meet the standards, depending on the severity of the ozone problem. To account for more areas with at-risk groups, including children and people with asthma, the EPA has also extending the ozone monitoring season for 32 states and the district of Columbia.
For more information on the final rule, click here.