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Reducing Ozone Limits Would Save Lives, Report States

WEDNESDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- Enforcing the current federal ozone standard would significantly reduce ozone-related illnesses and deaths in the United States, and introducing tighter restrictions on ozone would lead to even greater reductions, a new study suggests.

There's ample evidence that exposure to ozone is linked with health issues such as lung problems, asthma exacerbation, more hospital and emergency department visits, and increased risk of death, according to study author Jesse Berman, a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The current Environmental Protection Agency's eight-hour average ozone standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) is often exceeded, Berman noted.

Ozone is commonly referred to as smog.

The researchers analyzed ozone monitoring and health data for 2005-07 and estimated that 1,410 to 2,480 ozone-related premature deaths would have been prevented during that time if the current ozone standard had been met.

A lower standard of 70 ppb would have prevented 2,450 to 4,130 deaths and a standard of 60 ppb would have prevented 5,210 to 7,990 deaths, the study contended.

If the current standard would have been met, there would have been 3 million fewer cases of acute respiratory symptoms and 1 million fewer lost school days a year, the study said.

The research, supported in part by the American Thoracic Society, was published online July 18 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

"The EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee has recommended adoption of an ozone standard in the 60 to 70 ppb range. Our analysis shows that implementing such a lower standard would result in substantial public health benefits," Berman said in an American Thoracic Society news release.

More information

The American Lung Association has more about ozone.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, July 18, 2012

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