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Release Date: 12/2/1997
Contact Information: Randy Wittorp, U.S. EPA, Randy Wittorp (415)744-1589, Bobbie Bratz, APCD (805)961-8920, Tom Murphy (805)961-8857

                 Region Reclassified to Serious

San Francisco -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that Santa Barbara County has been reclassified from a moderate to a serious nonattainment area for ozone, a respiratory irritant in smog which can impair breathing.  Santa Barbara missed its 1996 deadline to meet the ozone standard, so U.S. EPA is required by the Clean Air Act to reclassify the region to serious.

"The reclassification does not mean the air is getting worse in Santa Barbara," said Felicia Marcus, EPA regional administrator.  " It means there's more work to be done.  Both Santa Barbara and the State of California have produced some model air pollution control programs.  The leadership we've seen with cleaner fuels, cleaner cars, and innovative local transportation and industrial controls makes us confident the community will do what it takes to bring clean air to all the people in Santa Barbara County."

Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District has requested that only the south portion of the County be reclassified to serious -- the portion of the county where ozone violations have occurred in recent years.  EPA has received comments supporting and opposing this approach and will continue to work with interested parties to determine whether or not a change in the boundary of the nonattainment area would be appropriate and still provide public health protection for all of the county's residents.

U.S. EPA issued a new, more protective ozone standard earlier this summer.  New plans that demonstrate attainment of that standard will be needed in 2003.  Until then, the current ozone standard will remain in place to ensure continued progress in improving air quality and protecting public health.  Any steps taken in Santa Barbara to meet the current ozone standard will protect public health now and help the region meet the new, stronger standard in the future.

Exposure to ozone can reduce lung function and increase susceptibility to respiratory infection.  It can also aggravate pre-existing respiratory diseases.  Children are very sensitive to ozone exposure because their lungs are still developing and they spend more time outside during the summer afternoons when ozone levels are the highest.  Symptoms of ozone exposure include chest pain, coughing, nausea, and pulmonary congestion.

In October, Phoenix, Arizona was reclassified to serious after also missing the 1996 deadline for moderate areas to meet the standard.  Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas has been proposed for reclassification.  This notice will become effective 30 days following publication in the Federal Register.