Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Smog Watch 2011: Fewer States With Dirty Air Than Last Year, But...

(Washington, D.C., June 8, 2011) – Fewer states have experienced “officially” dangerous smog levels so far in 2011 than during the same period last year, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has still not updated national health standards to reflect modern science.

A survey by the non-profit Clean Air Watch found that, through May 31, 22 states plus the District of Columbia experienced levels of smog worse than the national ozone standards set by the Bush Administration in 2008. These smog events are labeled “Code Orange” or “Code Red” under the Air Quality Index system created by the federal bureaucracy.

Thirty-eight states had similar dangerous smog levels during a comparable period last year.

The survey by Clean Air Watch volunteers is the first comprehensive snapshot of smog in the United States in 2011. It found that the national health standard for smog, technically ozone, was breached 445 times through May 31 at monitoring stations. During the same period last year, there were more than 575 such events, known in the jargon of the bureaucracy as “exceedences.”

Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, noted that the survey understates the full extent of the smog problem. The measurement used in the survey (ozone levels worse than 75 parts per billion, the same measurement used by the EPA in its “Code Orange” and “Code Red” designations – is weaker than the levels recommended by EPA’s scientific advisers and the proposal made in 2010 by the Obama administration.

“The EPA itself has admitted that children, people with asthma and many others remain at risk under the woefully weak current standards,” O’Donnell noted. He added that the oil industry and other big polluters are fighting tooth and nail against tougher final EPA standards.

EPA has several times delayed a final decision, but has promised one by next month.

“The Obama administration must choose the health of children over the wishes of the oil industry,” O’Donnell said. “And it’s time to do it now.”

The list of states and more on the survey is available at


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