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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUNE 23, 1998
11:59 AM
CONTACT:  Clean Air Trust
Norm Childs, 202-785-3355, or
Frank O'Donnell, 202-785-9625,


American Lung Association Warns of 'Terrible Summer of Smog'
 
WASHINGTON - June 23 -- Exactly one year after President Clinton endorsed stricter new health standards for smog and soot, the American Lung Association revealed today that the new smog standard has already been breached this year in at least 30 states and the District of Columbia.

"This is a shocking discovery, since these problems all occurred even before the start of summer," said Dr. Alfred Munzer, a pulmonologist and past president of the Lung Association.

"We could be in for a terrible summer of smog," Munzer added. To reduce the problem in the future, he called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require smog-fighting low-sulfur gasoline nationwide and to adopt much stricter tailpipe standards for future motor vehicles.

"We desperately need these improvements in order to protect our children, our senior citizens, people with chronic breathing problems and many others from the dangerous effects of smog," Munzer said. He noted that the president personally endorsed stricter health-based smog and soot standards on June 24, 1997, despite a multi-million-dollar disinformation campaign by big polluters including the oil and auto industries.

The new smog standard measures ground-level ozone (smog) over an 8-hour period of exposure. The old standard only measured one-hour peaks of the pollutant. Ground-level ozone is produced when nitrogen oxides (principally from motor vehicles and power plants) mixes in sunlight with volatile organic compounds (principally from motor vehicles, refineries and other smokestack industries). Studies have linked ozone to tens of thousands of emergency room visits annually. The pollutant also causes an array of other breathing problems.

Information obtained from state government agencies shows that the new smog standard has already been breached literally hundreds of times this year. The information discloses that virtually every state in the Eastern half of the country -- with the exception of Vermont and Rhode Island -- already has experienced smog above the legal level. Alabama is refusing to disclose 8-hour monitoring results, although smog problems have occurred in bordering states.

"This information shows that smog isn't just a problem in California and the Northeast," said Munzer. "Some of the biggest dangers are in the Midwest and Southeast. It's clear that we need national solutions to these persistent problems." One solution is cleaner, low-sulfur gasoline, noted Michael Walsh, former director of EPA's motor vehicle cleanup program and a consultant to the Lung Association. Most gasoline sold outside of California contains high levels of sulfur, Walsh explained. He noted that high levels of sulfur impede the performance of pollution control equipment and lead to more tailpipe pollution.

The Lung Association is urging EPA to require national gasoline sulfur levels to be reduced at least to that of the cleaner California gasoline. "This would produce an immediate reduction in smog and would dramatically enhance the performance of advanced `low-emission' vehicles," Walsh said. He noted that EPA also is examining the need for stricter tailpipe standards starting in model year 2004. A recent EPA analysis noted that at least 90 million Americans will still be living in dirty-air areas nearly a decade from now unless tailpipe standards are made much stricter.

To alleviate future smog problems, the Lung Association is calling on EPA to:

-- Follow an initiative by California to require much stricter tailpipe standards;
-- Require that smog-belching sport utility vehicles and minivans meet the same tailpipe standards as passenger cars;
-- Make sure diesel passenger vehicles meet the same tailpipe standards as gasoline vehicles;
-- Allow American consumers to buy the same advanced technology vehicles that will be sold in Japan and Europe; and
-- Require older, more polluting electric power utility plants to meet the same pollution control requirements as newer power plants.

Note: The list of states with air quality problems is available.

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