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National "Ozone Season" Begins with Warmer Weather - Whitman Says EPA Efforts Result in Cleaner Air, Comments on American Lung Association Report

Release Date: 04/30/2003
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(04/30/03) With the advent of ozone season tomorrow, Air Quality Index forecasts will begin appearing in newspapers and on television stations across the country. The public can use these forecasts to help protect themselves from ozone pollution, while EPA continues to pursue cleaner air for all Americans.

“Air Quality Index forecasts are an excellent tool to help people inform and protect themselves from ozone air pollution. They also serve as a reminder that we have made great progress to reduce air pollution, but there is still more work to be done to clean up the nation’s air,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.

The American Lung Association is releasing a report tomorrow to discuss the “state of the air.” Whitman commented that air quality is improving and that the Agency has implemented a number of new initiatives to reduce emissions and provide cleaner air.

“The Bush Administration is committed to protecting the health of all Americans, especially those who are most vulnerable like our children and the elderly,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. “We share the same goal as the American Lung Association. We believe that the President’s Clear Skies initiative, along with other EPA programs already underway, will achieve the results we all are looking for– and sooner than under current law.”

Ground level ozone, also referred to as smog, is a particular problem caused by hot weather conditions during the warmer months of the year. During hot days, emissions can become concentrated at low altitudes creating local conditions of air that is less healthy to breath, and which is tracked by the AQI. However, EPA is now on track to implement the more protective 8-hour ozone standard which is more protective of public health than the 1-hour standard currently in effect across the country. EPA will work with states and local communities during the next several years to develop plans to comply with the more protective ozone standards.

“We are taking aggressive actions on ozone, diesel, and other initiatives to ensure cleaner air for all Americans,” said Whitman.

She cited the President’s Clear Skies proposal that will achieve mandatory reductions, by approximately 70 percent, of three of the most noxious air pollutants emitted by power plants (nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury). In addition, EPA recently announced a landmark proposal to dramatically reduce emissions from nonroad diesel engines used in construction, agricultural and industrial equipment. Using stringent nonroad engine controls and reductions of sulfur in diesel fuel, this proposal would reduce emissions of ozone-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) and smog by more than 90 percent. The American Lung Association said that this proposal “will dramatically reduce air pollution from these diesel engines and protect public health.”

“The Clear Skies proposal, the nonroad reductions, and the 2007 Clean Diesel Program which greatly reduces emissions from diesel engines used in highway trucks and buses, will together have an unprecedented impact on our efforts to make the air cleaner across the country,” said Administrator Whitman.

While EPA works on these and other rules to clean the nation’s air and protect public health, Americans can use Air Quality Index forecasts to plan their outdoor activities so they are playing, exercising or doing heavy work at the times ozone levels are lowest. More than 270 U.S. cities issue AQI forecasts.

For more information on the Air Quality Index and to check AQI forecasts for your area, go to: . For more information on the benefits of the Clear Skies initiative, go to: .