Current U.S. ground-level ozone standard deemed insufficient

Smoggy air could get cleaner if a new U.S. EPA standard passes muster. Agency head Stephen Johnson has proposed lowering the allowable amount of ground-level ozone from 80 to 84 parts per billion to 70 to 75 ppb, since “the current standard is insufficient to protect public health.” But the agency will hold a 90-day public-comment period on several options, including Johnson’s plan; a recommendation from an EPA scientific panel to make the standard even stricter; or, eh, leaving it where it is. Fossil-fuel lobbyists and other panic-stricken people will no doubt weigh in; said one Texas environmental official of the new standard, “It would basically shut down our entire region, period … the quality of life we have been able to enjoy basically goes away.” Um. Fans of functional lungs, on the other hand, say the new standard doesn’t go far enough: it is, says David Ingbar of the American Thoracic Society, “unhealthy for America’s kids, unhealthy for America’s seniors, and unhealthy for America.”