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Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson

Representing the 30th District of TEXAS

We should have a stricter, healthier ozone standard

Jul 14, 2015
In The News

Summer should be a time for families to relax, perhaps take a trip to a favorite vacation spot — but all too often, summer means a trip to the emergency room.

For people living with asthma, and their families, summer’s heat means ozone pollution can make it unsafe to be outside.

Breathing ozone, often called smog, can send people with asthma to the emergency room, and it can shorten people’s lives. In Dallas-Fort Worth, dangerous ozone episodes frequently occur from now through September.

People here are all too familiar with air quality alerts. Families know that a hot day can be a Code Orange or Red day — an unhealthy air day — so they need to take steps to protect themselves.

Even on “moderate” code yellow days, the ozone pollution places children, seniors and those with asthma and other chronic diseases at risk.

However, the warnings are based on an outdated standard for ozone.

Congress must support an updated ozone standard to protect not only those most at risk but all of us from the effects of ozone.

Scientific evidence shows that the current national ozone standard — the limit on how much ozone can be in our air and the official declaration of how much ozone is safe to breathe — does not adequately protect public health.

Even though many areas meet the current standard, the remaining ozone burden still forces too many people to the hospital and the ER because they have trouble breathing.

And the full threat from ozone may be even worse. For example, studies find children’s lungs are susceptible to lifelong damage from this pollutant.

Dallas County alone is home to more than 60,000 children and 131,000 adults with asthma who are at risk of missing work or school, ending up in the emergency room or hospital, and even dying prematurely on days with dangerous ozone levels.

Nationally, EPA estimates that a protective standard would prevent up to 7,900 premature deaths and 1.8 million childhood asthma attacks in the year 2025 alone.

Those in Dallas-Fort Worth are counting on the EPA to set standards that protect their health.

Congress should be working to provide cleaner air faster. Instead, some members are trying to block this lifesaving safeguard by muddying the science around the health effects of ozone.

Some have claimed that a recent study from Johns Hopkins University found that ozone pollution isn’t important for asthma, despite the fact that the study didn’t even look at air pollution.

It examined the relationship between location, poverty, race/ethnicity and asthma prevalence in children.

The authors of the study wrote a letter to Congress correcting the erroneous claims about their findings and outlining the extensive body of research and preponderance of evidence showing that ozone levels harm respiratory health.

The science of what causes asthma is not settled, but we do know that for those who have the disease, ozone can trigger asthma attacks and force them into emergency medical care or hospital treatment.

We need a strong standard that offers real, science-based protection for our communities. 

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