Contact Us


All News Releases By Date



Release Date: 8/25/1997
Contact Information: Randy Wittorp, U.S. EPA, (415)744-1589

Levels Stabilized, but Still Not Safe Enough

     San Francisco -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that the Phoenix metropolitan area has missed its deadline to meet the health standard for ozone, a respiratory irritant in smog which can impair breathing.  EPA intends to reclassify the region from a moderate to a serious nonattainment area and require more pollution control strategies to protect public health.

     "Rapid growth rates make air pollution control extra challenging in Phoenix.  Considering the region added over one-half million residents in the last ten years, the state has done an excellent job controlling smog levels," according to Felicia Marcus, EPA regional administrator.  "The next step is to build on successful programs to meet the ozone standard for all of the area’s residents. The state’s clean burning gasoline program is a bold step in that direction."

     Many important steps have been taken to improve Phoenix’s air quality by the state legislature, local governments, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, the business community, and environmental and health organizations.  Clean burning gasoline has been introduced at Phoenix service stations and the state has a comprehensive vehicle emission inspection program.  Control measures have also cleaned up many industrial and commercial polluters.  But the state’s continuing evaluation of ozone in the Phoenix area shows that further air pollution reductions will be needed to meet the health standard.

     The decision to reclassify Phoenix is based on local air quality data from 1994 to 1996.  During this three year period, Phoenix and the surrounding communities experienced 21 days of unhealthy levels of ozone pollution with 13 violations of the 1 hour public health standard.  The area experienced 4 days of unhealthy ozone levels in 1996.  The 1 hour standard for ozone is 0.12 parts per million.

     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, playing and exercising when ozone levels are the highest.  Symptoms of ozone exposure include chest pain, coughing, nausea, and pulmonary congestion.

     While EPA issued a new, more protective ozone standard earlier this summer, the Agency will determine in 2000 which regions meet the new standard, based on the most recent air monitoring data available at that time.  New plans will be needed in 2003. However, the current ozone standard will remain in place, to ensure continued progress in improving air quality and protecting public health.   The serious classification gives Phoenix until the end of 1999 to meet the current standard.

     Other moderate areas that did not attain the ozone standard by the 1996 deadline and will be reclassified to serious include:  Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas and Santa Barbara, California.