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Tighter Ozone Standards Strengthen Kansas 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 impact air quality programs in Kansas. 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.

The new primary standard directly impacts the Kansas City metro area. Ozone monitoring by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has shown that this area might violate the new 75 parts per billion standard.

The announcement launches a process in which EPA will work with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to develop programs to meet the new standard that takes effect in 60 days. For the affected areas, the state will monitor ozone levels and submit a recommendation by March 2009 on whether they believe the area will continue to violate the standards and should be designated a nonattainment area by EPA. This designation would then require special planning and monitoring. Only the St. Louis metro area was considered a nonattainment area under the previous standard in Region 7. EPA Region 7 will then work with the state to establish nonattainment areas, if necessary, in 2010 and develop plans by 2013 to reduce the ozone levels.

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.

Primary standard monitored readings are taken over a three-year period to assess any possible violations. States are given the primary duties to monitor levels and are the 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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