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Union of Concerned Scientists: EPA Falls Short of Scientists' Calls For Stricter Controls On Smog

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUNE 21, 2007
10:14  AM

CONTACT: Union of Concerned Scientists 
Meghan Crosby, 202-331-6943

 
EPA Falls Short of Scientists' Calls For Stricter Controls On Smog;
Old Standard Not Enough To Protect Public Health
 

WASHINGTON - JUNE 21 - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced new draft ozone pollution regulations that fall short of the standard recommended by EPA scientific experts. Furthermore, the new rules would allow the agency to avoid tightening the standard altogether, despite unanimous agreement from its own scientists and science advisors that the current standard is not safe. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set pollution standards for ozone-a dangerous component of smog-based solely on the best available scientific information.

"The law says use the science, the science says lower the standard to safe levels," said Dr. Francesca Grifo, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Scientific Integrity Program. "In disregarding its own scientists' analysis, the EPA is risking the health of millions of Americans."

The EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC)-a panel of independent experts-has recommended the EPA tighten the ozone standard to a level between 0.06 and 0.07 parts per million (ppm). But today's proposed rule, which recommends a standard of 0.07 to 0.075 ppm, seeks public comment on a broad range of possible standards for the final regulation, including the current 0.08 ppm standard. Today's announcement follows at least two closed-door meetings with industry representatives in recent weeks.

In addition to CASAC's analysis, the EPA's own staff scientists have linked ozone to asthma and other breathing difficulties, chest pain, lung damage, increased susceptibility to respiratory illness, and heart- and lung-related deaths. According to EPA scientific documents, a 0.064 ppm standard would reduce ozone-related deaths by as much as 75 percent.

"We're holding our breath that the EPA will set a final standard that the agency's science advisors consider safe," said Dr. Grifo. "But if they don't, thousands more Americans will need to hold their breath."

In recent years, the EPA has let politics trump science on issues ranging from mercury poisoning to dirty air. For example, in 2005, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson misrepresented internal scientific analyses to justify not tightening the average annual standard for fine particulate matter, which studies have linked to heart disease, respiratory ailments, and premature death (for more, visit www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/interference/epa-particulate-matter.html). And late last year, EPA announced a new process for setting future air quality standards that substitutes scientists' independent work with recommendations by high-level political appointees and staff scientists that contain "policy-relevant science" that "reflects the agency's views" (for more, visit: www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/interference/naaqs-epa-staff-paper.html).

A 90 day public comment period follows today's EPA announcement. EPA's deadline for a final ozone pollution standard is March 12, 2008.

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The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has offices in Berkeley, California, and Washington, D.C. For more information, go to www.ucsusa.org.

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