Rice experts available to comment on EPA’s new ozone standards and the effects on health


David Ruth


Rice experts available to comment on EPA’s new ozone standards and the effects on health

HOUSTON – (Nov. 26, 2014) – Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is proposing lowering the standard for ozone in the air people breathe from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a range of 65-70 ppb and is opening public comment to consider dropping it further to 60 ppb.

In an opinion piece this morning on CNNmoney.com, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote, “… the Clean Air Act requires EPA to update air-quality standards every five years to ensure standards (and to) protect public health with an adequate margin of safety based on the latest scientific evidence.

“So today, following science and the law, I am proposing to update national ozone pollution standards to clean up our air, improve access to crucial air-quality information, and protect those most at risk — our children, our elderly and people already suffering from lung diseases like asthma.”

Why lowering ozone levels matters in Houston

Why are lower ozone levels important? Rice University researchers studying the impact of Houston air pollution on the public find there is strong evidence of increased asthma attacks and cardiac arrests due to elevated ozone levels. Their findings are derived from 911 calls to the city of Houston over a 10-year period.

“Overall, the increased risk of an asthma attack is 10 percent for single-day and 13 percent for three-day-long exposures when the ozone levels are between 50 to 70 ppb. If we move to higher levels of ozone in the range of 70 to 90 ppb, these risks increase to 21 percent for one day and 45 percent if exposed for three days,” said Loren Raun, faculty fellow in statistics at Rice.

“For heart patients, the concern is a three-hour window of elevated ozone levels,” said Kathy Ensor, Rice professor of statistics. “A 20 ppb increase in ozone levels resulted in a 4 percent increase in risk of cardiac arrest associated with ozone. The impact is greatest when the ozone levels are above 75 ppb.”

Also available for comment is Daniel Cohan, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. Cohan has conducted extensive atmospheric modeling of how ozone forms and emission control measures that are needed to meet air-quality standards in health protective matters. He has worked extensively with state agencies in Texas, Georgia and elsewhere on creating the control strategies needed to meet the standards.

For more information or to schedule an interview with Ensor, Raun or Cohan, call the News and Media Relations team at 713-348-6774.


Follow Rice News and Media Relations on Twitter @RiceUNews.


About David Ruth

David Ruth is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.