For Immediate Release: Tuesday, February 2, 2010, 11:00 AM/CST
For More Information, Eva Hernandez, Sierra Club, 512-299-1550;
Neil Carman, Sierra Club, 512-288-5772;
Susannah Fuchs, American Lung Association, 314-518-3886;
Chris Smith, Environmental Defense Fund, 512-659-9264;
Matthew Tejada, Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention (GHASP), 713-528-3779 or 512-934-8661
Health and Environmental Groups at U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) Hearing in Houston
Support Tougher Ozone Standard
Groups Agree, 60 parts per billion Limit needed for Dangerous Air Pollutant
(Houston) – American Lung Association, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention, and other health and environmental organizations and individuals turned out in numbers and spoke in support of a new, National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone at a public hearing of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today in Houston.
"2010 is the year when we are making a quantum leap forward toward healthier air,” said Mary Partridge, Chair of the Board of Directors for the American Lung Association. "Ozone, often known as smog, is one of the most dangerous gases polluting our air—and
the most widespread. Millions of our family members, neighbors,
and friends struggle with the burden of asthma and other
respiratory illnesses made worse by ozone pollution. Thousands
even lose their lives each year. Houston is especially hard
hit. Now is the time to tell the EPA that we need clean air
to breathe in Texas and the rest of the United States."
Ground level ozone or ‘smog’ is formed when emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds mix with sunlight. To control the amount of ozone pollution in our air, the US EPA recently proposed a new standard of between 60-70 parts per billion (ppb) correcting a less protective rule proposed by the Bush Administration The Bush proposal did not meet recommendations of the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.
Ozone Pollution is Dangerous
Over 1,700 studies establish that ground level ozone, even in small amounts, is more dangerous for human health than we previously knew. Children, seniors and those with lung diseases, like chronic bronchitis, asthma and emphysema, are especially at risk.
“I’ve been hospitalized many times with asthma attacks. It’s scary when you can’t
catch your breath. When I was young, going to the hospital
with asthma was a monthly thing,” said 14-year old asthma patient Aaron Smith who attended the EPA hearing with his mother Rosa Smith. The Smith family lives near the Houston refineries. “Now I’m on an adult dose of asthma medicine and the only other way to manage the asthma is to limit my outdoor activities. That’s hard to do at 14. My doctor’s even talking to me about moving away from Houston’s
pollution when I go to college.”
Almost twenty leaders of national and local health and environmental organizations, including Physician Bonnie New of Health Professionals for Clean Air, plus numerous citizens testified before the EPA hearing about the serious health problems caused by ozone pollution: “Even at low levels, breathing ozone pollution can
trigger asthma attacks, cause chest pains, and lead to permanent
lung damage and pre-mature death. Current standards fail
to protect even our healthiest adults who must curb their
running, jogging, and biking when smog makes each lungful
of air hazardous to breathe,” said Dr. New. “The
EPA is taking the right step moving forward to clean up ozone
air pollution. I am asking
EPA to implement the most protective limit on ozone of 60
parts per billion.”
Real Costs of Ozone Pollution
The nitrogen oxides and volatile organic emissions that make ozone come from large industrial sources like coal plants, refineries, and cement kilns, cars, trucks, and construction equipment, and other smaller though numerous sources. Some industrial leaders have reacted in the news opposing the proposed new ozone limits saying it will mean costs to businesses.
“We hear a lot about the costs of clean air. Today we’re talking about the costs of dirty air,” said Matthew Tejada, ED of GHASP/MfCA. “Ozone pollution, especially in a place like Houston with so many ozone days impacting millions of people, is costing us in terms of healthcare, missed work, missed school, weak lung development and the general perception that Houston is a dirty place. You can’t put a firm dollar sign on all of those things, but those of us who live in Houston see the result and know that clean air is going to save us more than it will ever cost.”
The EPA has done an analysis showing costs benefits of clean air in the billions.
“By law, human health is the only thing EPA can
take into account when setting this rule. Forty years of
experience shows us that the health benefits of tighter
standards will outweigh the costs,” said Matthew Tejada, PhD, Director of GHASP. “Right
now we are paying a high price for our dirty air. Strengthening
the smog limits to 60 ppb could help prevent thousands of
asthma and heart attacks, hospital visits, and millions of
missed work and school days, saving billions in health costs.”
How We are Ending Ozone Pollution
Three areas of Texas, Houston-Galveston, Beaumont-Port
Arthur, and Dallas-Fort Worth are not currently meeting
the 75 ppb national air quality standard due to high levels
of ozone smog. These regions and additional areas of Texas
will not meet the new, more protective standard and will
be required to reduce ozone-forming emissions. The EPA
will work with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
and city/county-based, local Councils of Government to
develop a State Implementation Plan to identify and reduce
or eliminate sources of ozone pollution. Businesses and
individuals can also opt to reduce ozone emissions voluntarily.
"In Texas, we’ve been cleaning up the air for forty years so we can do this. We’ve
done it before,” said Neil Carman, Sierra Club’s Clean Air Program Director -- a chemist and former Texas state air regulator. “Science
tells us that the current smog standards fail to protect
the health of millions of Americans. We are very happy to
see EPA proposing much-needed protections against ground
level ozone. A 60 parts per billion ozone standard is exactly
what we need to make our air healthy to breathe.”
The Sierra Club, American Lung Association, Health Professionals for Clean Air, GHASP, Environmental Defense Fund, Public Citizen, Environment Texas, and other partner organizations in the Clean Air Texas coalition have focused efforts on stopping new coal-fired power plants, phasing out the dirtiest existing coal plants, and reducing upset emissions at refineries and chemical plants. The groups point to extensive opportunities for further clean energy sector growth and more green jobs.
“I’m asking EPA to pass the most protective ozone
standard to help all of us with asthma so we can go outside
and enjoy our lives,” said Aaron Smith.
The hearing in Houston is one of three the EPA is holding to gather public comments across the nation. Another is in Arlington, Virginia today and another will take place February 4, in Sacramento, California. The 60-day public comment period runs through March
The public can email comments to the EPA at: a-and-r-Docket@epa.gov with the reference "Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2005 -0172" in the subject line;
or, mail comments to:
Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2005 -0172
Environmental Protection Agency
Mail code 6102T
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
The new Ozone standard will be finalized August 31, 2010.