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This American Lung Association® website provides timely information to public health and environmental advocates about the EPA review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone and particulate matter.
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American Lung Association Applauds New Sulfur Dioxide Health Standard

June 3rd, 2010

American Lung Association Applauds New Sulfur Dioxide Health Standard 

‘Standard offers the promise of real protection’

Statement of Charles D. Connor, American Lung Association President and CEO:

Washington, D.C. (June 3, 2010)
The American Lung Association applauds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the new National Ambient Air Quality Standard for sulfur dioxide, the first strengthening of the limits on this dangerous air pollutant in nearly four decades.  For the first time, this standard will help curtail the bursts of this noxious gas that spew into communities living next to some of our nation’s oldest, dirtiest polluters, including coal-fired power plants. This standard offers the promise of real protection to the people who have breathed these fumes for far too long.

Sulfur dioxide threatens our health in many ways.  Sulfur dioxide tightens the airways, making it harder for people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other lung diseases to breathe. It worsens coughing and wheezing and increases asthma attacks. Breathing sulfur dioxide sends people with lung diseases to the emergency department or the hospital for breathing problems.   Sulfur dioxide  gas changes into deadly particles in the atmosphere and is linked to thousands of premature deaths. EPA estimates that this tighter standard will save 2,300 to 5,900 early deaths each year,

The national air quality standard sets the official limits on how much of this pollutant can be in the air.  The standards drive the cleanup of the sources of these pollutants in communities across the country. In this case, the standard will help protect some of the communities located closest to coal-fired power plants, industrial boilers, petroleum refineries, metal processing plants and diesel exhaust.

With today’s action, EPA has wisely chosen to use an array of tools to identify the communities with dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide.  Communities will have to not only place new monitors, but do computer modeling to identify where problems may exist.  Modeling here is an appropriate and welcome supplement to monitoring and can help ensure that we can better protect the people living nearest to these big polluters.

We also appreciate EPA’s decision to make sure that every community is “classified.”  In the past, communities without adequate monitoring information could avoid having to clean up because they fit in the “unclassified” category. For the first time, EPA is requiring that these communities use the modeling and monitoring data to show that they are either meeting or failing to meet the standard.  This change is a subtle, but fundamental strengthening of the protections for people living in the communities, because it means the problems they face must be recognized and addressed.

Statement of the American Lung Association on EPA’s Revised Standards for Nitrogen Dioxide

January 25th, 2010
Statement of Charles D. Connor, American Lung Association President and CEO

Washington, D.C. (January 25, 2010)—

Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the first revision to the national air quality standard for nitrogen dioxide since 1971, including the first network of roadside monitors for any of the motor vehicle pollutants.

We are pleased that EPA has finally strengthened protection against this toxic pollutant, with a new standard that limits peak one-hour levels of nitrogen dioxide. EPA’s step means that, in the future, millions of people will not have to breathe the most dangerous concentrations of this noxious gas. Nitrogen dioxide makes people cough and wheeze and inflames the tissues of the lungs. Nitrogen dioxide triggers asthma attacks and increases the likelihood asthma suffers will have to rush to the emergency department or be admitted to the hospital. Nitrogen dioxide increases the likelihood of catching lung infections such as influenza.

We support the network of nitrogen dioxide monitors located near highways.  We hope this will only be the beginning of what is truly needed—a comprehensive, multipollutant network that will routinely gather information along our highways, the place in every community that has some of the highest levels of the most dangerous pollutants.

But after waiting 38 years, we had frankly hoped for a stronger, more protective standard.  Their decision allows areas to have nitrogen dioxide concentrations that remain hazardous to the millions of people who will have to breathe them.  Their final decision, unlike their proposal of last summer, allows twice as many days when nitrogen dioxide will spike to dangerous levels.  Unfortunately, that burden is likely to fall hardest on those who can least bear it—children, older adults, people with lung disease, as well as people with low incomes, and communities of color.

Millions of people face higher risk from having to breathe dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide. EPA estimated that 36 million people live near highways, railroads or ports, where they breathe air that is more polluted with nitrogen dioxide than in other parts of the county.

This month the Health Effects Institute—a research center funded by the motor vehicle industry and EPA—released an extensive review of the evidence of the threats to health from living near a highway.  An expert panel concluded that breathing the nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants from highway traffic increased the risk that a child’s asthma would get worse. Strong evidence warned that pollution from traffic may even increase the risk that children could develop asthma, or worsen their lungs’ ability to function.  For older adults and people with cardiovascular disease, the evidence pointed to another dire threat—living near a highway may increase the risk of early death.

Neighborhoods near major highways are often home to people with lower incomes, as well as communities of color. Many busy highways pass through dense urban neighborhoods or near schools.  Those communities often have higher prevalence of lung disease, putting them at even greater risk from breathing traffic exhaust.  The Institute’s report estimated that 30 to 45 percent of people living in large North American cities live close enough to highways to breathe the dangerous pollutants there.

We face a challenge to reduce the pollution that our friends and neighbors must breathe. Today’s action is a good first step.  The American Lung Association will watch the new monitoring data closely.  We will continue to urge EPA to provide greater protection when the Agency reviews this standard again in five years.

EPA Sets 3 Public Hearings on Ozone NAAQS Reconsideration

January 12th, 2010

The U.S. EPA has announced 3 public hearings on its proposal to reconsider the ozone air quality standards in order to set standards consistent with the recommendations of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC).

In 2008, the Bush Administration EPA set an 8-hour ozone standard of 75 ppb, against the unanimous advice of the CASAC and the medical and public health community.  Now, the new Adminsitration has proposed to reconsider that standard, and to set a public health standard in the range of 60-70 ppb, as recommended by CASAC.  This move restores science to its proper role in the standard setting process.
Three public hearings are scheduled as follows:

  • Arlington, Virginia: Tuesday, February 2, 2010.

Hyatt Regency Crystal City @ Reagan National Airport

Washington Room (located on the Ballroom Level)

2799 Jefferson Davis Highway

Arlington, Virginia 22202
Telephone: 703-418-1234

  • Houston: Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hilton Houston Hobby Airport
Moody Ballroom (located on the ground floor)

8181 Airport Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77061

Telephone: 713-645-3000

  • Sacramento: Thursday, February 4, 2010

Four Points by Sheraton
Sacramento International Airport

Natomas Ballroom

4900 Duckhorn Drive

Sacramento, California 95834

Telephone: 916-263-9000

The public hearings will begin at 9:30 a.m. and continue until 7:30 p.m. or later, if
necessary, depending on the number of speakers wishing to participate.  The EPA will accommodate all speakers that arrive and register before 7:30 p.m.
To preregister to speak at the public hearings, please contact Ms. Tricia Crabtree at:   crabtree.tricia@epa.gov; telephone: (919) 541-5688.

More information about the proposal is available at:  http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/

The Lung Association has prepared a backgrounder:   Backgrounder on Ozone NAAQS Reproposal

Download these talking points for the public hearings:   Talking Points For Ozone Public Hearings

EPA Reconsiders the Ozone Air Quality Standard: Will They Get It Right?

January 6th, 2010

January 6, 2010 — Today or tomorrow, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) is expected to announce its decision on whether to strengthen the national air quality standards for ozone.

Under the last Administration, the EPA rejected the unanimous advice of the Agency’s science advisers and set standards too weak to protect public health. Now, the Obama Administration’s EPA has a chance to get it right.  EPA scientists and independent outside scientific experts agree that the old standards are too weak to protect against asthma attacks, emergency room visits, and premature death.

With the quality of the air we breathe at stake, what should the Agency do?  And who could be affected?

The fact sheet below provides additional information.
EPA Reconsiders the Ozone Air Quality Standard: Will They Get It Right?

American Lung Association Welcomes Proposed Sulfur Dioxide Health Standard

November 17th, 2009

(November 17, 2009)–Statement of Charles D. Connor, American Lung Association President and CEO
Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new limits on the toxic air pollutant sulfur dioxide in the outdoor air.  This health standard has not been revised since 1971.  The American Lung Association welcomes this long overdue action and urges EPA to set a standard at a level that truly protects public health.  Inhaling sulfur dioxide (SO2) makes it hard for people with asthma to breathe. High levels of SO2 force people to the emergency room and to hospitals because they have trouble breathing.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson proposed a new national air quality standard to limit one-hour levels of sulfur dioxide gas, which would offer more protection from short spikes in SO2 than the current annual or 24-hour standards provide.  This standard targets the repeated spikes of this dangerous gas that threaten the health of millions. We at the American Lung Association applaud her recommendation. If EPA adopts a standard that protects the health of the public, communities with the highest SO2 levels will have to clean up their pollution.  The American Lung Association recommends EPA adopt the most protective level, 50 parts per billion, under consideration.
The American Lung Association had taken legal steps in the past to push EPA to protect against these spikes in sulfur dioxide pollution, so we are pleased that EPA has now begun to do so.  Sources, such as coal-fired power plants, industrial facilities, and ports, which pollute the air in the communities where they operate need to be cleaned up.  Cleaner, healthier air will benefit the lives and health of millions of people.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is a gas composed of sulfur and oxygen. Spikes in SO2 occur all too frequently, particularly in areas near coal-fired power plants. SO2 forms when sulfur-containing fuel such as coal, oil, or diesel is burned.  Sulfur dioxide also converts in the atmosphere to sulfates, a prime component of fine particle pollution in the eastern U.S.
We urge EPA to adopt a tighter one-hour standard, and to retain its existing annual standard as well.

# # #

Backgrounder on EPA’s Review of Sulfur Dioxide NAAQS

November 13th, 2009

On Monday November 16, 2009, EPA will issue a proposed rule to revise the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for sulfur dioxide. For the first time, EPA will propose short-term limits on sulfur dioxide concentrations to protect the health of children with asthma.
Below, we have posted a fact sheet prepared by the American Lung Association that provides background on the health effects of sulfur dioxide and the issues at stake:
SO2 NAAQS Backgrounder

Fact Sheet and Talking Points on EPA NO2 Proposal

July 24th, 2009

For the first time in over 35 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed changes to the national air quality standard for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) a widespread, noxious air pollutant. The National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) define what constitutes air that is safe to breathe and drive air pollution cleanup programs.  EPA has proposed adding a new one-hour standard to the existing annual standard. EPA also has proposed establishing a roadside monitoring network to track expected higher levels of NO2 along major highways.

Recent research shows that the current annual average standard set in 1971 fails to protect the health of children, older adults and people with asthma and of people who live and work near major highways.  EPA will accept public comments on the proposal until September 14, 2009, and will hold public hearings on August 3, 2009 in Arlington, VA and August 6, 2009 in Los Angeles. EPA is under a court order to issue final standards by January 22, 2010.

Attached are a fact sheet on the proposal with information on how to file public comments, as well as talking points for the public hearings.

Fact Sheet on NO2 Proposal

Talking Points for Public Hearings on NO2

Hearings Set for Proposed Air Quality Standards for NO2

July 10th, 2009

Hearings set for August 3rd and 6th will allow concerned citizens to weigh in on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed revisions to the air quality standard for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a potent form of air pollution. The American Lung Association will be there to call on EPA to better protect public health with a stronger standard, which will become the official outdoor limit for this dangerous air pollutant.

“Strong scientific evidence tells us that the current NO2 standard fails to protect public health,” says Janice Nolen, American Lung Association Assistant Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. “Some of the people most exposed to this pollutant live or go to school near major highways where NO2 levels seem to be the highest. It is time for EPA to follow the science and adopt tighter standards to protect the health of all Americans.”

Changes to the national air quality standard for NO2 pollution will become the new official limit for this air pollutant that each county in the nation must meet. The new NO2 standard will trigger federally enforced clean up measures designed to protect people from the harm that breathing this pollutant can cause.

Traffic pollution and power plants are two of the biggest sources of NO2 pollution in the United States. People living in and around Los Angeles, Phoenix, in the Northeast corridor and in Chicago experience the highest concentrations of this pollution.

“Breathing NO2 can irritate the lungs, trigger asthma attacks and lower the body’s natural resistance to respiratory infections,” say Norman H. Edelman, MD, American Lung Association Chief Medical Officer. “People with asthma and other lung diseases, children and older adults are at highest risk for these health complications, as are people who live or work near a major highway.”

EPA must set its final rule for NO2 air quality by January 22, 2010. The American Lung Association will participate in EPA-led public hearings to advocate for air quality standards that best protect public health in all areas of the country.

The hearings are set for August 3 in Arlington, VA, and on August 6 in Los Angeles, CA. You are urged to sign up to speak at either hearing with EPA’s Tricia Crabtree:  919-541-5688, crabtree.tricia@epa.gov.  Specific logistical information:

August 3, 2009, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Arlington, VA
EPA Potomac Yard Conference Center
1 Potomac Yard
2777 South Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA

August 6, 2009, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Los Angeles, CA
Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown
711 South Hope Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Phone: (213) 488-3500

American Lung Association Wins Case Seeking Stronger Particulate Pollution Standards

February 25th, 2009

February 24, 2009.  A federal appeals court today ruled that Bush-era clean air standards were deficient, sending them back to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for corrective action. Read more »

Cleaner Air Translates Into Longer Life

January 22nd, 2009

A stunning new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that average life expectancy in U.S. cities has increased nearly three years over recent decades, and approximately five months of that increase, or 15 percent, came because of reduced fine particle air pollution. Read more »