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Unnecessary delay will put Americans’ lives, health at risk
Washington, D.C., July 12, 2017- Today, the American Lung Association, the American Thoracic Society and the American Public Health Association took legal action to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) unnecessary delay in the implementation of the 2015 ozone national air quality standard. The three organizations, working with other organizations, all represented by the non-profit law organization Earthjustice, asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to throw out or block the delay by EPA.
On June 6, 2017, EPA announced that the agency would delay implementation by one year of the ozone standard adopted in 2015. The ozone standard sets an official limit on the amount of ozone pollution in the air considered safe to breathe. Without the delay, states and local governments would have been required to begin to take actions protect their residents from ozone where unhealthy levels existed on October 1, 2017.
"Delaying the process to clean up ozone pollution harms the health of millions of Americans and puts lives at risk, especially children living with asthma and others with lung disease," said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. "The EPA's job is to implement the Clean Air Act to ensure the air is safe to breathe for all, especially the most vulnerable. Stalling implementation of the 2015 ozone standard is a dangerous step in the wrong direction."
"EPA's most important responsibility is to ensure the air is safe to breathe and the water is safe to drink. In delaying new smog standards, EPA is threatening the basis of this important public health responsibility," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. "Implementing these improved air quality standards would reduce premature deaths and morbidity from preventable diseases. They should first do no harm and not delay these life-saving protections."
"The science is clear," said Mary B. Rice, MD, co-chair of the American Thoracic Society Environmental Health Policy Committee. "Exposure to ozone air pollution has serious adverse health effects, including: missed work and school days, increased asthma exacerbations, medication use, emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and even death," she said. "The EPA's decision to delay implementation of the 2015 ozone standard is not acceptable. In light of the evidence, we cannot stand by and do nothing."
Ozone, sometimes referred to as smog, is a harmful and widespread air pollutant that can cause asthma attacks, respiratory damage and even early death. While ozone pollution threatens the health of millions of Americans, some populations are more at risk, including children and teens, people living with lung diseases like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and anyone age 65 or older.
In 2015, EPA estimated that meeting the 2015 ozone standard would save hundreds of lives, prevent 230,000 asthma attacks in children, and prevent 160,000 missed school days each year by 2025. However, EPA's decision postponed the first key step to put this lifesaving protection into place: identifying the areas that must clean up their air to meet the 2015 ozone standard.
The American Lung Association, the American Thoracic Society, and the American Public Health Association are committed to fighting for healthy air for all Americans to breathe, and will continue to defend the full, legal implementation of the Clean Air Act that will continue to protect the health of Americans.
APHA champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the public health profession. We speak out for public health issues and policies backed by science. We are the only organization that combines a 145-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Visit us at www.apha.org.