It’s Time to Weigh in on Smog Limits

Check out the video and op-ed below by some of our Clean Air Texas coalition partners about the hearing in Houston tomorrow on the EPA’s new proposed rule to strengthen ozone standards. I’ll be at the hearing tomorrow, along with Ryan Rittenhouse, to represent Public Citizen and interview folks from around the state who’ve come to speak up for clean air.  If you plan on attending the rally, look for us and tell us your stories!


It’s Time to Weigh in on Smog Limits

Imagine this conversation between a mother and child:

“Mommy, can we go outside and play?”

“Not today, dear, it’s just not safe.”

Most of us growing up in Texas didn’t wait for our parents to check an air quality report before venturing outside in the summer. But things have changed. Today, we know that rising temperatures bring rising ozone levels and as summer arrives we’re forced to restrict outdoor activities to limit harmful exposure.

Still, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t hide from poor air quality. We’ve got to clean it up.

That’s why we are encouraged that the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new limits on ozone “smog” pollution to protect human health. On Tuesday, the EPA hosts an all-day public hearing at the Houston Hobby Hilton to get your feedback on these proposed stronger standards.

Why should you care about ozone? Ground-level ozone triggers asthma attacks, sends children to the emergency room and can even kill. It’s a serious health threat — especially in states with warmer climates like Texas. When our abundant sunlight and heat “cook” our equally abundant emissions from traffic and refineries, it forms — you guessed it — too much ozone.

In the greater Houston area, hundreds of thousands currently suffer from asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and other lung diseases. Ozone at levels well below the current standards can damage lung tissue and reduce the lungs’ ability to work. This can worsen asthma and chronic bronchitis. Millions of children and older adults are at risk too — risks that may include irreversible lung damage and premature death.

Why strengthen the existing standard? We need stronger, science-based, national air quality standards because the current limits fail to protect our health and our environment. The standards tell communities like Houston how much pollution has to come out of the air we breathe. The scientific evidence, 2,000 pages of it, shows that the standards need to be much, much stronger or millions of children with asthma, and many others, will continue to suffer.

The last EPA administration ignored the standards suggested by its own independent panel of expert science advisers, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), leaving the clear impression that air quality standards were being based on politics and special interests rather than science.

The agency now proposes a standard that would limit pollution concentrations in the range of 60 to 70 parts per billion (as measured over an eight-hour period). We believe that human health would most benefit from implementation of the strongest standard in that range: 60 parts per billion.

What about the costs? As they’ve done decades before, opponents from industry and political allies will wave their “sky-is-falling” flag claiming that strengthening standards will cost jobs and hinder economic growth. But history tells a different story: Forty years of evidence shows those claims are false. Over time, such guidelines have spurred market innovation, never cost as much as predicted and ultimately resulted in cleaner air for everyone to breathe.

Right now we are paying a high price for our dirty air. The costs of poor air quality are often hidden but are very real: doctor’s visits, medications, hospitalizations, time missed from work and more.

Finally, we’ve done it before and we can do it again. We’ve made great strides in cleaning up our air but still have air that threatens our health and our lives. We ask the citizens of Houston to seize this important moment and come to Tuesday’s hearing in support of stronger ozone standards.

Leave a legacy of clean air, not only for our health but also for the health of our children and future generations.

The article was submitted by Michelle Bernth, American Lung Association in Texas; Neil Carmen, Sierra Club; Elena Craft, Environmental Defense Fund; and Matthew Tejada, Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.