Study co-author David Persse, EMS physician director for the Houston Fire Department, said that EMS workers have long believed that certain types of air pollution, including ozone, have serious harmful effects on people's hearts and lungs. "But this mathematically and scientifically validates what we know," he said in the news release.
The American Lung Association ranked Houston eighth in the United States for high-ozone days. The city is taking steps to reduce fatalities from heart attacks, such as increasing education on bystander CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) in at-risk communities.
The best way to prevent the harmful effects of exposure to air pollution, however, is to improve air quality, according to Houston's Health and Human Services Department.
Rice University environmental engineer Daniel Cohan said that environmental strategies that reduce ozone year-round may be needed.
The researchers noted their findings could have important implications as states plan to meet national ozone standards. Although standards are now set at 75 ppb, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering tightening them to between 60 ppb and 70 ppb.
A 2012 study from Rice determined that the EPA's particulate standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter does not go far enough to protect people's health.
The findings were scheduled for Sunday presentation at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Boston. The study will also be published in the journal Circulation.
Visit the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to learn more about ozone.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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