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Guided by the values and expertise of medicine and public health, Physicians for Social Responsibility works to protect humanity from the gravest threats to health and survival. Right now, you can make a difference by registering your comments on the EPA's new Clean Power rule to limit carbon from existing coal-burning power plants. Just click the button to get started.

PSR testifies for stronger ozone limits

February 12, 2010

PSR testified before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently, urging the Agency to tighten the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, NAAQS, for ground-level ozone. 

Ground-level ozone, also known as smog, is the most pervasive air pollutant in the United States.  An estimated one-third of Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone, putting this third of the population at risk for serious health problems.  

Ozone can inflame and damage the lining of the lung and aggravate chronic lung diseases.  It can also affect the cardiovascular system, aggravating pre-existing heart conditions and increasing the risk of heart arrhythmias and heart attack. Thus, people who suffer from asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease or hardening of the arteries need to be protected from ozone exposure. 

The EPA proposes to lower the primary limit for ozone to between 60 and 70 parts per billion. 
PSR contended that even the lower level of this range is inadequate to protect vulnerable populations.

PSR’s testimony was presented by Barbara Gottlieb, deputy director for environment and health, in the EPA’s public hearing in Arlington, VA and by Harry Wang MD, president of the Sacramento, CA PSR chapter at a similar hearing in Sacramento.  

PSR based its position on the very studies cited by the EPA in preparing the proposed rule.  The EPA reviewed studies conducted on healthy young people, non-smokers, with limited prior exposure to ozone, who in experiments were exposed to ozone, then tested for pulmonary function.  The studies showed that at the lowest level the EPA is now considering, subjects experienced statistically significant reduction in lung function. 

PSR called on the EPA to adopt a more stringent standard, sufficient to protect the health of all Americans, including the most vulnerable.  The vulnerable population includes children, particularly those with asthma; adults with chronic respiratory or cardiovascular diseases; and populations with genetic susceptibilities to ozone. 

PSR also urged the Agency to make the time frame as short as possible for implementation of the proposed rule, noting that every delay affects the health of Americans.

Ozone is formed when gases including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and methane combine in the presence of sunlight and heat.  Coal-fired power plants and motor vehicles are the main sources of smog-forming pollutants.   

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