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Tighter Ozone Standards Strengthen Iowa Air Quality Programs

Release Date: 03/12/2008
Contact Information: David Bryan, (913) 551-7433,

Environmental News


(Kansas City, Kan., March 12, 2008) - The new standards for ground-level ozone announced today in Washington will strengthen air quality programs in Iowa. The primary ground-level ozone standard was tightened from 80 parts per billion to 75 parts per billion (0.08 parts per million to 0.075 parts per million).

Primary standards set limits to protect public health, including the health of "sensitive" populations such as asthmatics, children, and the elderly. The identical secondary standard for ozone monitoring sets limits to protect public welfare, including protection against visibility impairment, damage to animals, crops, vegetation, and buildings.

While no particular areas in Iowa are being discussed as potential violations of these standards, most areas of the state are already implementing policies that will help reduce ozone levels in the future. EPA Region 7 works continuously with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa cities on lowering emissions and keeping future ground-level ozone levels under the standard.

Ground-level ozone does not occur naturally in our atmosphere but is formed through a combination of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight. In the earth's lower atmosphere, ground-level ozone is considered "bad." Motor vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents as well as natural sources emit NOx and VOCs that help form ozone. Ground-level ozone is the primary ingredient of smog. Sunlight and hot weather cause ground-level ozone to form in harmful concentrations in the air.

Ozone can harm people's lungs, and EPA is particularly concerned about individuals with asthma or other lung diseases, as well as those who spend a lot of time outside, such as children. Ozone exposure can aggravate asthma, resulting in increased medication use and emergency room visits, and it can increase susceptibility to respiratory infections.

States are given the primary duties to monitor levels and are best source for discussions on how they monitor their specific regions.

The Clean Air Act, which was last amended in 1990, requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for widespread pollutants from numerous and diverse sources considered harmful to public health and the environment. More than 1,700 new and expanded studies conducted since the 1997 standard was established formed the basis for establishing the new standards.

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