Lowering the national ozone standard would significantly reduce mortality and morbidity

Jul 18, 2012

Establishing a more stringent ozone standard in the U.S. would significantly reduce ozone-related premature mortality and morbidity, according to a new study published online July 18 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

"Abundant evidence links exposure to ozone with adverse health effects, including impaired pulmonary function, , increased hospital and , and increased mortality, yet the current National Standard of 75ppb is often exceeded," said lead author Jesse Berman, a PhD candidate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Our study shows that adhering to the current standard would result in a significant reduction in morbidity and mortality and, furthermore, that applying even more stringent ozone standards would result in even greater reductions."

The research was supported in part by an research contract to Mr. Berman.

Using national ozone monitoring data for 2005-07 and concentration-response data obtained or derived from the epidemiological literature, the authors applied health impact assessment methodology using the Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program (BenMAP) to estimate the numbers of deaths and other adverse health outcomes that would have been avoided during this time period if the current eight-hour average ozone standard (75ppb) or lower standards had been met.

The researchers estimated that if the current ozone standard of 75ppb had been met, 1,410 to 2,480 ozone-related premature deaths would have been avoided during the study period. At a lower standard of 70ppb, 2,450 to 4,130 deaths would have been avoided, and at a standard of 60ppb, 5,210 to 7.990 deaths would have been avoided. At the 75ppb standard, acute respiratory symptoms would have been reduced by three million cases and school-loss days by one million cases annually. Even greater avoided mortalities and morbidities would have been achieved at 70ppb and 60 ppb standards.

"The EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee has recommended adoption of an ozone standard in the 60 to 70 ppb range," said Mr. Berman. "Our analysis shows that implementing such a lower standard would result in substantial public health benefits."

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4 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2012
The author of the article is confused. Lowering the ozone standard will not prevent any deaths, or sick days, or morbidity. Adhering to the current standard would be a huge step in the right direction, but in areas where ozone levels are high, reducing them is tough. Tougher standards wouldn't have much effect anytime soon, it may take over a decade to get the worst cities into substantial compliance with the current standards.

Of course, if you don't live in California, you can ignore all this. There are a few cities outside CA that exceed the current (8 hour) ozone levels a couple of days a year. So for the rest of the country, the EPA levels mean nothing. Current "clean air" programs in those cities bring O3 levels down as a side-effect of reducing VOC (volatile organic compounds) and particulates.
3 / 5 (2) Jul 18, 2012
@eachus And what is the cost benefit ratio based on EPA's valuation of "a life" (they have one!)? Based on that ratio, could the cost to society be better applied somewhere else? or no where?

Striving for zero risk is a fools errand.
3 / 5 (2) Jul 19, 2012
" Ethanol often promoted as a clean-burning, renewable fuel that could help wean the nation from oil would likely worsen health problems caused by ozone, compared with gasoline, especially in winter, according to a new study led by Stanford researchers.

E85, a blend of gasoline and ethanol that is 85 percent ethanol, produces different byproducts of combustion than gasoline and generates substantially more aldehydes, which are precursors to ozone."

Biofuels ... death from the greenies.