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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUGUST 29, 2002
2:13 PM
CONTACT:  US Public Interest Research Group
Rebecca Stanfield (beckystan@pirg.org), Elizabeth Hitchcock, (lizh@pirg.org), U.S. PIRG, 202-546-9707
Annual Summer Smog Study Shows Persistent Public Health Threat In Nearly Every State: EPA Changes to Clean Air Regulations Would Exacerbate Already Dire Problem
 

WASHINGTON - August 29 - Smog monitors in 42 states and the District of Columbia recorded more than 4,600 instances during which Americans were exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution in 2001, with Houston and San Bernardino residents hardest hit, according to the Danger In The Air study released today by U.S. PIRG. Moreover, partial 2002 data shows that the number of exceedances will triple or even quadruple in some states compared to 2001. The report comes as the White House reviews final regulations making it easier for major smog sources like power plants and refineries to avoid pollution clean-up.

"Millions of Americans have felt the impacts of 2002's brutal smog season," said U.S. PIRG Staff Attorney Rebecca Stanfield, co-author of the report. "If they're breathing the same air we are, the Bush administration should scrap its proposal to let polluters off the hook," she continued.

Ground-level ozone or "smog" is a dangerous respiratory irritant that affects the health of millions of Americans each year. Mountains of research have established a link between smog levels and asthma attacks numbering in the millions each year. Recent studies have even linked smog with mortality from strokes and with the onset of asthma in children and adults.

Danger In The Air contains data from a network of more than a thousand ozone monitors across the nation. Among the reports findings are:

  • During the 2001 ozone season, the national health standard for ozone of .08 parts per million averaged over an 8-hour period was exceeded on no fewer than 4,634 occasions at monitors in 42 states and the District of Columbia.
  • The old, less-protective 1-hour ozone standard of .12 parts per million was exceeded on at least 533 occasions in 31 states and the District of Columbia.
  • 2001 saw roughly 10.3% more exceedances of the health standard nationwide than 2000.
  • California, Pennsylvania and Texas were the smoggiest states based on the number of exceedances of the health standard. Behind these states were Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan and Virginia.
  • The states with the highest number of "smog days"-days during which at least one exceedance of the 8-hour standard was recorded-included California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, North Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
  • People in San Bernardino County, CA and Harris County, TX were exposed to the highest concentrations of smog in the nation.
  • Regionally, the New England, Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states had significantly more smog in 2001 than in 2000, while the Southeast and Western states had less smog in 2001 than in 2000.

In addition to summarizing data from 2001, U.S. PIRG analyzed preliminary 2002 ozone data from 20 states and the District of Columbia and found that:

  • Even with the smog season still in full swing, the number of ozone exceedances recorded in these 20 states combined is more than double the number in those states for all of 2000 and 60% more than recorded in these states in all of 2001.
  • As of August 11, the state of Indiana had already experienced 432 ozone exceedances, more than quadruple the number recorded in either 2000 or 2001.
  • As of August 13, the state of North Carolina had already recorded 544 8-hour ozone exceedances, compared to 182 throughout the entire 2001 ozone season.
  • As of August 11, the state of Illinois had already experienced 175 ozone exceedances, again more than quadruple the number recorded in either 2000 or 2001.
  • As of August 27, the state of South Carolina had already experienced 174 exceedances; triple the number from all of 2001.
  • Other states that have already seen more ozone exceedances in 2002 than in the entire ozone seasons of 2000 and 2001 include: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, Virginia, West Virginia, Iowa and Vermont.

"While there are many factors contributing to ups and downs of smog levels, the one factor we can control is the amount of smog-forming pollution we put into the air," said Stanfield. "We may have to live with the heat and the geography we're given, but Americans don't have to live with this smog crisis. We have pollution control technologies that can cut emissions to a tiny fraction of current levels if the political will is there to enforce the law," she continued.

The report suggests five policy solutions to begin to solve the smog problem, including:

  • Aggressive enforcement the New Source Review program of the Clean Air Act by both states and the U.S. EPA.
  • Timely designations of areas that are out of attainment with the national health standard for ozone by U.S. EPA.
  • Adoption of a comprehensive new program to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide and mercury from power plants, such as the one proposed by the authors of the Clean Power Act, passed this summer by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
  • Adoption of federal emission standards for non-road diesel engines used in construction and farm equipment, as well as new standards for the diesel fuel that is used in these engines.
  • Adopt mandates and incentive programs to stimulate the market for advanced technology vehicles such as electric, fuel cell and hybrid cars.

U.S. PIRG is the national lobbying office for the state Public Interest Research Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations. Danger In The Air is available at www.uspirg.org.

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