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Expert: Tougher Smog Rules Will Help Missourians Breathe Easier

PHOTO: Doctors say smog is taking a toll on Missourians, and some are urging the EPA to adopt even stricter air-quality standards than the ones the agency is now proposing. Photo credit: Click/Morguefile.com.
PHOTO: Doctors say smog is taking a toll on Missourians, and some are urging the EPA to adopt even stricter air-quality standards than the ones the agency is now proposing. Photo credit: Click/Morguefile.com.
November 28, 2014

ST. LOUIS - New regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could help clear the air in Missouri, and across the nation.

The EPA recently released a proposal to significantly strengthen protections against ground-level ozone pollution, better known as smog, and health experts are urging the agency to go even further with its final rule.

With smog levels in the St. Louis area consistently rated among the highest in the country, Dr. John Kissel says Missourians of all ages are paying the price.

"About one out in 10 children suffers from asthma, with a higher rate than that here in St. Louis," says Kissel. "I've had quite a few older patients with emphysema who couldn't go outdoors during the summertime on certain days because the air quality was so bad."

Kissel says kids who live in smog-prone areas have 20 percent lower lung capacity, similar to those raised in a home where parents smoke.

The EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee has recommended the agency set the limit on ozone pollution between 60 parts and 70 parts per billion, from the current level of 75 parts per billion.

According to Kissel, past standards were set at a level widely recognized in the scientific community as being too low to protect the public. He's urging the EPA to take advantage of what he describes as "a historic opportunity."

"It really is a public health issue, and the science is clear," says Kissel. "One would hope we could get away from the political infighting long enough to do things that really protect the population."

He adds that tougher air quality rules would create a ripple effect that would help put Missouri, and the nation, on a path toward a greener, healthier future.

"Stricter standards will force us to take a harder look at pollution from our coal-fired power plants, vehicles, and our industrial process," he says.

A final rule on ground level ozone pollution is expected by October of next year.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO