With the season for … o-z-o-n-e … just around the corner, when it does finally arrive, it’ll mean discussion concerning this corrosive gas will really ramp up. And, more than likely, like clockwork, the scourge will, in places, come on with a vengeance and with that will be seen increased asthma attacks, hospital admissions and emergency department visits and added associated side effects such as days of work lost, absences at school, visits to the doctor as well as coupled monetary costs regarding these health-related factors. All negative consequences that no one in their right mind would relish.
As it happened, after eight years with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone averaged over eight hours set at 75 parts per billion (ppb) in 2008, on Oct. 1, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tightened the standards to 70 ppb, much to the chagrin of interests both related to the environment and industry. Industrial concerns have argued the more stringent health standard would mean job losses and further and unnecessary hardships affecting that sector while environmentalists have asserted the additional 5 ppb improvement simply didn’t go far enough to fully protect the health of the public.
As to the legal challenge, Earthjustice on Dec. 23, 2015 remarked: “Today, Earthjustice representing the Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, West Harlem Environmental Action, Appalachian Mountain Club, and the National Parks Conservation Association filed suit to challenge the national ozone standards adopted in October. The EPA’s standards are weaker than what medical experts have called for. They fail to protect against thousands of deaths and hospital and emergency room visits, and hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks that could be prevented by more protective standards, the groups contend.
“The EPA set its new standards at the very weakest level it considered, 70 parts per billion (ppb), despite findings by the agency’s science advisors that harms to health occur below this level, especially for vulnerable populations. The EPA also rejected calls from the National Park Service to establish a separate standard calibrated to protect trees, crops and other plants from ozone-caused damage,” Earthjustice went on in the release “Public Health and Environmental Groups File Suit Against Weak Smog Standard: EPA set standard at level that allows thousands more deaths, hospitalizations.”
Meanwhile, the Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, West Harlem Environmental Action, Appalachian Mountain Club and the National Parks Conservation Association that filed the legal challenge felt that the revised ozone standards adopted last year, although not as strong as what was hoped for apparently, they nevertheless are somewhat improved; the EPA move a step in the right direction.
Earthjustice added: “This case is the latest in a series of court actions over more than a decade that seeks stronger protections against deadly ozone pollution. In 2008, the Bush EPA set national standards for ozone at 75 ppb, weaker than the unanimous recommendation of the EPA’s own science advisors. Earthjustice challenged the 2008 standards on the ground that the EPA’s action was arbitrary and contrary to the language and purpose of the Clean Air Act. In March 2013, EPA missed its legally binding deadline to review and update the standards, and Earthjustice later secured a court-ordered deadline to enforce compliance.”
Image above: U.S. National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute