Current Ozone Standards Already Working

DALLAS (September 5, 2007) – H. Sterling Burnett, Senior Fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis(NCPA), testified today at an EPA public hearing on setting national ambient air quality standards for ozone levels. Burnett told the panel that due to technological improvements and the EPA's existing standards, Ozone levels have decreased and will continue to do so. Burnett further explained that changing the EPA standards would do more harm than good, as more areas would be declared noncompliant under more stringent regulations. Below are excerpts from his remarks:

Many areas have just begun to implement their programs to comply with the current standard and new standards already slated to come online should reduce Ozone ever further.  As a result, many areas should shortly be getting out from under some of the Clean Air Act's development restrictions, absent a tougher standard.

More stringent ozone standards might be worthwhile, if ozone at current levels plausibly posed a significant threat to human health or welfare.  But research done since 1997 does not show this to be the case.  Rather, research undermines the claim that Ozone, even at current levels, is causing an increase in asthma and/or other health related problems.  Ozone simply isn't a plausible cause of the recent rise in asthma:

  • The incidence of asthma rose 75 percent from 1980 to 1996, and nearly doubled for children. At the same time, however, Ozone declined.
  • Emergency room visits and hospitalizations for asthma are lowest during July and August, when ozone levels are highest.
  • The lowest asthma rates in the world are found in developing and ex-Soviet countries with awful air pollution, while western countries with the world's cleanest air have the highest asthma rates.

Claims that present ozone levels kill thousands of people prematurely each year are based on unreliable, "observational" epidemiology studies.  They find no support in either animal studies or laboratory studies using college volunteers.  In the human laboratory studies, even at ozone levels at least 50 percent greater than the current ozone standard, volunteers had to work out for five hours before ozone elicits even a small change in lung function.