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Environment

Smog Linked To Premature Death

April 28, 2008 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 86, ISSUE 17

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When EPA sets an air quality standard for ozone, it needs to consider that this pollutant likely contributes to premature deaths, the National Research Council says in a new report. The report helps settle a controversy over whether EPA should factor in premature deaths due to ozone exposure when it analyzes the potential health benefits from a tighter standard for this pollutant. Ozone, a major component of smog, is linked to heart and lung problems. "The report is a rebuke to the Bush Administration, which has consistently tried to downplay the connection between smog and premature death," Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, says. The NRC report, released on April 22, says short-term exposure to ozone pollution is likely to contribute to people dying prematurely, especially those with existing heart or lung disease. Deaths related to short-term exposure may not occur until several days afterward and may be linked to several short-term exposures, the report says. EPA is likely to take years to apply the advice on premature deaths to the national air quality standard for ozone. This is because the agency just updated the ozone standard in March (C&EN, March 17, page 12).

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