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The DOJ delivers the Comey memos to Congress. Also on our rundown: More evidence that rent prices are out of reach in many markets; Wisconsin counties brace for sulfide mining; and the Earth Day focus this weekend in North Dakota is on recycling.

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Michiganders Can Sound Off on Smog Rules

PHOTO: Michiganders can weigh in on how much ground-level ozone, more commonly known as smog should be allowed in the air now through March 17. Smokestacks from coal-fired power plants are among the major contributors of smog. Photo credit: clarita/morguefile.
PHOTO: Michiganders can weigh in on how much ground-level ozone, more commonly known as smog should be allowed in the air now through March 17. Smokestacks from coal-fired power plants are among the major contributors of smog. Photo credit: clarita/morguefile.
February 2, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - Ground-level ozone, or smog, is the single most widespread air pollutant in the U.S. and is linked to severe respiratory issues and health experts are urging the government to crack down on it.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, says even at levels below the current ozone standard of 75 parts per billion, this byproduct of tailpipes and smokestacks poses serious threats especially for children, the elderly and anyone with breathing problems.

"It exacerbates people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and it causes not only just these attacks, but can cause premature death and other morbidity," says Benjamin. "It's a significant problem and we can address it by reducing the amount of ozone that's produced."

In November the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled its proposal to tighten the standard from 75 parts per billion to as low as 60 parts per billion.

A series of hearings held in different U.S. cities wraps up this week with testimony in California. Written comments will be accepted through March 17.

The American Petroleum Institute says it is both costly and unnecessary to update the regulations but Paul Billings, senior vice president for advocacy and education with the American Lung Association, says the decision should come down to the evidence available.

"The law requires these standards be set based on science, at what levels of air pollution harms health, so health and cost feasibility are not part of the decision," Billings says. "You want your doctor to tell you what makes you sick, not what it'll cost to cure you."

Pulmonary physician and associate professor of medicine at the University of New Mexico Dr. Dona Upson, who testified at a hearing last week, says the scientific evidence and public health benefits of a strong rule speak for themselves.

"The EPA's analysis has shown that setting a standard at 60 parts per billion would prevent up to 7,900 premature deaths, 1.8 million asthma attacks in children and 1.9 million missed school days each year," says Upson.

The regulations haven't been updated since 2008. The agency plans to issue a final rule this fall.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI