EPA’s proposal to revise the air quality standards for ground-level ozone

OnJune 20, 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to strengthen the nation’s air quality standards for ground-level ozone. Recent scientific literature has improved our understanding of the adverse effects of ozone on both human health and the environment. This article summarizes the latest scientific knowledge on the effects of ozone and the key aspects of EPA’s proposal to revise the standards. EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson will issue a final decision by March 12, 2008.

Since 1997, when EPA last revised the ozone standards, more than 1700 studies on the public health impacts of ozone have been conducted. As detailed in the public documents that are part of the air quality standard development process, this new scientific evidence, as a whole, enhances our understanding of the health effects associated with shortterm and prolonged exposure to ozone. Studies continue to point to a wide array of effects, ranging from lung inflammation and respiratory symptoms to hospital admissions and emergency departmentvisits for respiratory causes (see Figure 1). Controlled human exposure studies to ozone conducted on healthy adult volunteers have shown a variety of health effects, including reduced lung function, respiratory symptoms, inflammation of the lining of the lung, increased susceptibility to respiratory infection, and long-term changes in the lung tissue.

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