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Lung Disease Physicians and Researchers Disappointed by Environmental Protection Agency's Slow-Motion Action to Curb Smog Ozone Air Pollution

Aug. 22, 2023 -- In response to the Aug 21 announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the agency will delay action on lowering the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone pollution, American Thoracic Society President M. Patricia Rivera, MD, ATSF, issued the following statement:

“Adult and pediatric pulmonologists, critical care, and sleep medicine physicians and pulmonary medicine advanced practitioners in almost every state are witnessing in their patients the negative health impacts of high levels of ozone air pollution. Continued exposure to ozone in lung cells is akin to a sunburn on your skin. Prolonged exposure endangers the lung health of millions of Americans, disproportionately impacting low-income and communities of color.

“The current EPA level of allowable air pollution is too high and must be lowered.” Earlier this year, EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee encouraged the Administrator to strengthen the limit by dropping the standard to between 55 and 60 parts-per-billion (ppb), down from 70 ppb.

“We strongly encourage the U.S. EPA to follow the science and implement best practices for public health now, not later.”

The ATS Health of the Air report estimates that if the US (areas with EPA air quality monitors) met the ATS recommended standard of 60 ppb of ozone (O3), the following adverse health outcomes could be avoided:

Excess mortality: 3,670

Excess morbidity: 14,890

Impacted days (missed school, work, days when vulnerable advised to stay inside): 29,037,600

The American Thoracic Society improves global health by advancing research, patient care, and public health in pulmonary disease, critical illness, and sleep disorders. Founded in 1905 to combat TB, ATS has grown to tackle asthma, COPD, lung cancer, sepsis, acute respiratory distress, and sleep apnea, among other diseases.