Short-term exposure to current levels of ozone in many areas is likely to contribute to premature deaths, says a new National Research Council report, which adds that the evidence is strong enough that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should include ozone-related mortality in health-benefit analyses related to future ozone standards.
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has tried to reduce controls on air pollution and argued against linking pollution with early deaths. One case involves the EPA’s decision last month to tighten the ozone health standard and reduce the allowable air concentration. The OMB argued in the cost-benefit analysis that there was “considerable uncertainty” in the association between ozone levels and deaths. As a result, the EPA issued a cost-benefit range from an annual net societal cost of $20 billion to a savings of $23 billion, depending largely on whether the lives saved from ozone-related premature deaths are considered. Now that cost benefit would be $23 billion because of $3 billion in ozone related premature deaths.
Environmentalists and health advocates have long argued that multiple health studies suggest exposure to smoggy air not only aggravates respiratory problems, but also causes thousands of annual deaths.