Stronger EPA Ozone Standards are Good for Our Health

Outdoor Portrait Of A Teenage Black Girl Jumping Over A Blue SkyIn December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed rule designed to reduce the amount of ground-level ozone (O3), also known as “smog.”[1] The proposed rule would reduce the concentration of ozone pollution in the air from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 65-70 ppb.  The agency also has asked for comments from the public on lowering levels to 60 ppb.[2]

High levels of air pollution (fine particles, ozone, acidic aerosols, and nitrogen oxides) are associated with making asthma symptoms worse.[3]  The short-term health impacts of Oinclude “decreased lung function, increased respiratory symptoms and pulmonary inflammation.”  Longterm exposures can cause respiratory symptoms, diseases, and death. Decreasing Olevels is expected to better protect children, the elderly, and people with asthma.[4]

African Americans suffer disproportionately from asthma and other diseases and conditions made worse by air pollution. The rates of hospitalizations and deaths due to asthma are both 3 times higher among African Americans than among whites.[5] Black children visited the emergency department for asthma at a rate 260% higher that white children, had a 250% higher hospitalization rate, and had a 500% higher death rate from asthma, than white children.[6]

For the Final Rule, we urge the EPA to revise the standard to 60 ppb for O3.  We believe that this lower limit will better protect vulnerable populations, and reduce the dirsproportionate health burden suffered by African Americans from asthma.

You can see the comments filed with the EPA by Living Well Black here:  LWB EPA O3 Comments

–Janell Mayo Duncan

[1] “National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone,” 79 Fed. Reg. 72234, 75236 (December 17, 2014).

[2] McCarthy, Gina, EPA Administrator, “U.S. EPA: We need tougher ozone standards,” CNN Money, November 26, 2014.  http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/26/news/economy/epa-stronger-ozone-standard/

[3] “Children’s Environmental Health Disparities: Black and African American Children and Asthma,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov/epahome/sciencenb/asthma/HD_AA_Asthma.pdf. (viewed 3/17/2014)

[4] 79 Fed. Reg. at 75236 (December 17, 2014).

[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asthma prevalence, health care use and mortality: United States, 2003-05 and Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final Data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 57 no 14. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009.

[6] “Asthma and African-Americans,” http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/content.aspx?lvl=3&lvlID=532&ID=6170.

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