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Illinoisans Can Weigh In on Stricter Smog Limits

PHOTO: A smoggy day in Chicago is the result of ground-level ozone, or smog that can make breathing more difficult for many people. Photo credit: sfquixote/Flickr.
PHOTO: A smoggy day in Chicago is the result of ground-level ozone, or smog that can make breathing more difficult for many people. Photo credit: sfquixote/Flickr.
February 2, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Ground-level ozone, or smog, not only makes cities hazy on sunny days, it also causes breathing difficulties for many people.

Smog is a byproduct of tailpipe and industrial emissions, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is debating strengthening the limit to 60 parts per billion from the current limit of 75.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, says at current levels, smog is linked to a number of health 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,” he points out. “It's a significant problem and we can address it by reducing the amount of ozone that's produced."

Some industry leaders argue the current standard is effective, but Benjamin counters the EPA proposal is backed by solid science showing the standard is not strong enough.

Written comments on the proposal are being accepted until March 17, and a series of public hearings around the country wraps up today in Sacramento, Calif.

Dr. Dona Upson, a pulmonary physician, testified at a hearing last week in Texas. She says the limit will go a long way in protecting public health.

"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," she stresses.

According to the American Petroleum Institute (API), the stronger limit would be expensive.

But Paul Billings, senior vice president for advocacy and education with the American Lung Association, says the standards are not set based on cost, but on the levels at which this type of air pollution is considered dangerous.

"You want your doctor to tell you what makes you sick, not what it'll cost to cure you,” he adds. “So the API is really at the wrong part of the process. Cost and feasibility come into the conversation when we try to meet these standards, what strategies are employed."

The standard has not been updated since 2008, and a final rule is expected by Oct. 1.


Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL