Ground-Level Ozone

EM – December 2023: This month, EM considers the importance of better understanding the human and environmental impact of ground-level ozone, presenting five articles that focus on various components of ozone policy and research, data collection and analysis, and collaborative planning efforts.
by Amanda Brimmer and Susan Wierman

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to ground-level ozone can cause respiratory issues, aggravate asthma and other lung diseases, and may lead to missed days of work or school, emergency room visits, and premature deaths. These costly public health impacts can be especially harmful to children and older adults and disproportionately affect people of color, families with low-incomes, and other vulnerable populations. Limiting ozone pollution in the air protects human health and the environment. National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) established by EPA for ground-level ozone, or ozone pollution, specify a maximum allowed measurement for ozone to be present in outdoor air.

Nationally, due in part to strong EPA emissions standards that reduce air pollution, ozone air quality has been improving. But ozone problems persist in many of the areas designated as not meeting the current 2015 standards. To continue progress toward reducing ozone, EPA has initiated important regulatory actions, including strong new federal emissions standards for cars and trucks and strengthening rules to reduce pollution from the oil and natural gas industry. Taken together, EPA expects the projected benefits of these and other actions addressing industrial and power sector emissions, such as with the Good Neighbor Plan, will cut emissions of ozone precursors by hundreds of thousands of tons, with estimated health benefits adding up to billions of dollars.

The U.S. Clean Air Act requires EPA to periodically review all six NAAQS to ensure that they provide adequate health and environmental protection, and to update those standards, as necessary. On August 21, 2023, EPA announced a new review of the ozone NAAQS to ensure the standards reflect the most current, relevant science and protects people's health from harmful pollutants. EPA Administrator Michael Regan reached this decision after carefully considering advice provided by the independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). EPA will incorporate the ongoing reconsideration into the review and will consider the advice and recommendations of the CASAC in that review.

Continue reading the full December 2023 issue of EM.


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