The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new strict health standards for smog. The agency says it is proposing to replace the standards set by the previous administration, which many believe were not protective enough of human health.
The agency is proposing to set the primary standard, which protects public health, at a level between 0.06 and 0.07 parts per million measured over eight hours. Children are at the greatest risk from ozone, because their lungs are still developing, they are most likely to be active outdoors, and they are more likely than adults to have asthma, according to the EPA. Adults with asthma or other lung diseases, as well as older adults, are also sensitive to ozone.
The EPA is also proposing to set a separate secondary standard to protect the environment, especially plants and trees. This seasonal standard is designed to protect plants and trees from damage occurring from repeated ozone exposure, which can reduce tree growth, damage leaves and increase susceptibility to disease.
Depending on the level of the final standard, the proposal would yield health benefits between $13 billion and $100 billion, according to the EPA, and estimated costs of implementing this proposal range from $19 billion to $90 billion.
The EPA will take public comments for 60 days after the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register. The public hearings are scheduled for Feb. 2 in Arlington, Va., and in Houston; and Feb. 4 in Sacramento, Calif.