Saturday, February 16, 2013

New EPA Science Assessment: Breathing Smog Will Burn Your Lungs and Maybe Kill You

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has quietly published a final new "Integrated Science Assessment" involving ozone, which we commonly refer to as smog.

There doesn't seem to be any new bombshell in this 1251 page/40 megabite tome  but the results are significant nonetheless.

As EPA notes, this assessment
provides a concise review, synthesis, and evaluation of the most policy-relevant science to serve as a scientific foundation for the review of the

national air quality standards for ozone. More on that review, below.

A warning to readers: This assessment is quite technical.  But the bottom line is that the scientific evidence is stronger now than in 2006 (the last time EPA made such an assessment) linking ozone exposure to breathing and other health problems, including death!  Here are some key conclusions:

The combined evidence from these [various scientific] disciplines supports the conclusion that there

is a causal relationship between short-term [ozone] exposure and respiratory effects. [including an increase in emergency room visits and hospital admissions]

Overall, the body of evidence indicates that there

is likely to be a causal relationship between short-term exposures to [ozone]  and cardiovascular effects, including cardiovascular mortality.

...there is likely to be a causal relationship between long-term exposure to [ozone]  and respiratory effects.

As for the standards review noted above, you may recall that in 2008 the EPA under President Bush ignored the advice of EPA's science advisers and set a standard of 75 parts per billion. (The science advisers had argued for a standard within the range of 60-70). 

President Obama's EPA promised to right this scientific wrong, but in 2011, the White House big-footed the EPA and kept in place what is now the Obama-Bush smog standard, following complaints by the oil and other industries.  (Some state, health and environmental groups have sued against what we believe is an illegal Obama-Bush standard;  a federal court could rule on this very soon.)

This new assessment is part of EPA's review of the standard.  In theory, EPA will propose a new standard later this year, but don't bet on it unless a federal judge orders the agency to deal with this issue without further delay.

Thanks for Bloomberg BNA Daily Environment Report for calling this science assessment to our attention.

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