Statement from Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E)
Executive Director, American Public Health Association
Washington, D.C., March 12, 2008 – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced more protective National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone air pollution. While we recognize the new standards as a much needed improvement and a step in the right direction, the American Public Health Association (APHA) is concerned that the allowed levels of ozone pollution still fall far short of the requirements of the Clean Air Act.
Today’s ruling acknowledges the very real dangers that ozone poses to the health of the public. By lowering the allowed level of ozone air pollution, the EPA strengthens the protection for millions of Americans from the air pollutant often known as smog. However, by failing to lower the standard to the levels recommended unanimously by the EPA’s own expert scientific advisors, the EPA ignored an opportunity to set a truly protective standard that would better safeguard the public from respiratory illness and increased symptoms from allergies, asthma, emphysema and other lung diseases. Today’s ruling also ignores the advice of APHA and fifteen other major medical and public health organizations that repeatedly urged the EPA to follow the overwhelming evidence for a truly protective standard.
As an organization representing over 50,000 public health professionals, APHA remains concerned that, even with today’s revision to the NAAQS for ozone, our nation is not doing enough to adequately protect the health of the American public. Ozone pollution is a danger to all Americans and is a particular threat to the most vulnerable among us. It threatens the health of infants, children, seniors, and people who have asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other lung diseases. For these people, breathing smog-polluted air can greatly diminish their quality of life and even cause death. It is unacceptable that the EPA’s ozone regulations do not go as far as they can to protect the health of Americans.
According to the nation’s landmark air pollution law, the Clean Air Act, the EPA must set our air quality standards at levels that protect the health of the public. Today the EPA moved one step closer to that goal. However, the new regulations do not go far enough. We call on EPA to adhere to the science and to lower the allowed levels of ozone to the recommended level in order to safeguard our nation’s health. In addition, we strongly reject any legislative proposals that would weaken the public health protections of the Clean Air Act.