- In 1999, only seven states met the Environmental
Agency's controversial health standard for smog and soot,
an analysis of data from air-quality monitors across the
- "Smog is causing a public health crisis, affecting
in nearly every state in the nation," said Rebecca Stanfield,
attorney with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which contributed
to the analysis. "It's time to take aggressive action to protect
health and clean the air."
- According to the report,
"Danger in the Air,"
the EPA's eight-hour federal health
standard for smog was exceeded at least
7,672 times in 1999. The
standard is exceeded whenever and wherever an
average of more than .08
parts per million of particulate matter accumulates
in the air over an
- Led by the American Trucking Association, commerce and
groups are challenging this standard. In May, a three-judge panel
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor
of commerce and industry on the grounds that the process the EPA used in
setting the standard is illegal. The case is pending review by the U.S.
- "Danger in the Air" also analyzed the number
the previous one-hour standard was exceeded. That standard ".12
parts per million averaged over a one-hour period " was exceeded 592
times. In the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado, car traffic is a major
contributor to air pollution.
- Smog is formed when nitrogen oxide, emitted as a
of fossil-fuel burning by automobiles and electric power
in the air with other chemicals in the presence of
sunlight and heat. Smog
season generally lasts from May to September,
depending on weather conditions.
- Smog is responsible each year
for more than six million
asthma attacks, 159,000 emergency-room visits
and 53,000 hospitalizations,
according to a report issued in October
1999 by Abt Associates of Cambridge,
Massachusetts. "We think the
[new] standard should be enforced,"
- Whether or not this
comes to pass, the U.S. Public Interest
Research Group and the Clean
Air Network say Congress and the EPA can take
other action to clean up
- One step already has been taken. On Dec. 21, 1999, the
adopted regulations aimed at making conventional passenger cars, including
sport-utility vehicles, 90-percent cleaner by the year 2004.
- Stanfield sees
encouraging signs in the campaign to clean
up the country's air. Five
bills currently in the U.S. Senate and House
promote clean air. One aim of the legislation is to
get rid of a
loophole that allows old, coal-fired power plants to emit
four to 10
times as many pollutants as newer power plants.
- "All bills will save tens
of thousands of lives
each year, prevent millions of unnecessary
illnesses and help to protect
our local and global ecosystems,"
the researchers write in their report.
- Copyright 2000
Environmental News Network