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Release Date: 3/5/1998
Contact Information: Randy Wittorp, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1589

     San Francisco -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that the following ten urban areas across California have met the public health standard for carbon monoxide:  Bakersfield, Chico, Fresno, Lake Tahoe North Shore, Lake Tahoe South Shore, Modesto, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco Bay Area, and Stockton.  U.S. EPA signed a rule today that would officially make all ten regions attainment areas for the health standard.

     "This is good news for the health of California residents," said Felicia Marcus, U.S. EPA regional administrator.  "Millions of people throughout the state can breathe a little easier knowing that the air meets the public health standard for carbon monoxide.  While California has experienced tremendous growth, state and local agencies, environmental groups and businesses have met the challenge and found effective ways to cut levels of this serious air pollutant."

     Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels burn inefficiently, primarily coming from motor vehicles.  Other lesser sources include:  lawn and garden tools and other non-road gasoline-powered equipment, industrial boilers, incinerators, and wood-burning.  Carbon monoxide levels have been on a steady decline across the state because of California's improvements in motor vehicle emission controls, cleaner burning fuels, and smog check programs.

     Carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream and reduces oxygen delivery to the body's organs and tissues.  Exposure to elevated levels of carbon monoxide may cause loss of visual perception and manual dexterity as well as fatigue, chest pains and breathing difficulties.  Young children, senior citizens, pregnant women and people with asthma or other heart and lung problems are especially susceptible to the effects of carbon monoxide pollution.  U.S. EPA's national public health standard for carbon monoxide is 9 parts per million.

     On July 3, 1996, the California Air Resources Board submitted requests to redesignate ten of California's federal carbon monoxide planning areas from nonattainment to attainment.  Under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, designations can be changed if sufficient data is available to support revisions.  Yesterday afternoon, U.S. EPA signed a rule for publication in the Federal Register to redesignate all ten areas to attainment for carbon monoxide.