Tougher Ozone Pollution Standard, More Public Resources Needed to Help Americans Breathe Easier

-For Immediate Release-
May 13, 2015

Contact: Brian Gumm, 202-683-4812,

Tougher Ozone Pollution Standard, More Public Resources Needed
to Help Americans Breathe Easier

WASHINGTON, May 13, 2015—Dirty air is unhealthy for everyone, but one type of air pollution – ozone – is especially dangerous to children, the elderly, those with diseases like asthma and heart conditions, and people living in poverty. In conjunction with Asthma Awareness Month, a new report and interactive map from the Center for Effective Government show how a tougher ozone standard and more public resources would create cleaner air for more than 206 million people in 46 states across the country.

The report, Gasping for Support: Implementation of Tougher Air Quality Standards Will Require New Funds for State Agencies, summarizes the health problems caused by current "acceptable" levels of air pollution, including asthma attacks, heart attacks, cancer, and early death, and focuses on ozone, one of the most widespread and dangerous air pollutants.

"It is essential to set air quality standards at a level that adequately protects public health," said Ronald White, director of regulatory policy at the Center for Effective Government. "The American people, especially those most vulnerable to the health impacts of air pollution, need clean air."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reviewing the current ozone standard (set at 75 parts per billion, or ppb) as required by the Clean Air Act and plans to decrease the amount of ozone allowed because scientific advances have shown that ozone levels well below the current standard can cause health problems. But the EPA's proposed level, between 65 and 70 ppb, doesn't go far enough: we need an ozone standard of 60 ppb to effectively protect our health.

Over 206 million Americans would breathe cleaner air under an ozone standard of 60 parts per billion. The health benefits would be profound. Compared to current levels, an ozone standard of 60 ppb would prevent up to 5,800 premature deaths, 2,100 hospital admissions for breathing problems, 6,600 asthma-related visits to the emergency room, and 1.7 million asthma attacks in children every year. This would save between $12-20 billion in health costs annually by 2025. And these estimates do not even include the additional $2.1-3.6 billion in benefits from California, which would have longer to meet the stricter standard.

Despite the need for a stronger ozone standard, Congress has slashed the resources states need to implement air quality rules. Under the Clean Air Act, many air quality standards are set at the federal level, but states are primarily responsible for implementing and enforcing them. Over the past ten years, federal grants to state clean air programs have dropped in value by 21 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. Congress is poised to reduce EPA's budget yet again.

Our federal, state, and local governments can help clean up our air and protect our health, and the report provides several recommendations for making this happen.

  • EPA can protect an additional 106 million Americans by adopting the toughest ozone standard (60 parts per billion), which current science indicates is necessary to adequately protect public health. This includes over 14 million elderly people and 25 million children, including 2.2 million asthmatic children, 5.4 million people with chronic lung disease, and 5.3 million people with heart disease.

  • Congress can fund state and local air quality agencies at the 60 percent match level allowed by the Clean Air Act. This would provide over $600 million more per year for states to develop and implement programs necessary to meet air quality standards, expand their air pollution monitoring networks, tackle climate change pollution, and step up enforcement of air quality requirements.

  • Congress can also prioritize cleaner air for all Americans by increasing funding to the EPA. Beyond allowing the agency to increase its financial support to state air quality agencies, these resources would allow EPA to provide more technical assistance and conduct essential research into the health impacts of air pollution.

"EPA can and should develop strong, science-based air quality standards, but protecting our air cannot be done on the cheap," said White. "States need substantially more funding to protect their residents from ozone and other air pollutants."

The report and interactive map are available online at

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The Center for Effective Government is dedicated to advancing a government that protects people and the environment and encourages an engaged, informed citizenry. Find the Center for Effective Government on Facebook and Twitter.

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