After the American Lung Association report found that more than 123 million Americans currently live with hazardous levels of ozone, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun to reconsider federal air quality standards, for the purpose of controlling smog and environmental pollution throughout the territory.
Currently, 18 of the 25 most ozone-polluted cities are west of the Mississippi River, and 10 are in California alone. The data comes from a summer in which extreme temperatures were recorded in much of the west and the northwest US. As well as a worse-than-average wildfire season. In combination with particulate matter, more than 14 million people are at risk of ozone pollution in this area.
EPA and air quality standards
In December 2020, EPA said it would maintain the existing standard for ozone, the main component of smog, at 70 parts per billion. At that time, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced that the 2015 standards would remain in place despite calls from environmental advocates to reduce the standard to a maximum of 60 ppb. However, environmental groups continue to point to the state of ozone as a greenhouse gas, as well as its health hazards at the soil level.
"The latest science clearly shows that current ozone standards are simply not strong enough to protect public health, or the crops, forests, and ecosystems we depend on," explains Earthjustice Senior Counsel Marvin Brown, one of the groups that defy the current standard. " Rethinking standard is a good first step, and we now urge the state to strengthen these standards by using the best available science and ensuring strong community participation throughout the process".
According to the EPA schedule, the organization must review existing air quality standards every 5 years. Currently, new evidence is expected to make the necessary modifications, and thus prevent air quality from being compromised for Americans.