WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moved to strengthen air-quality standards earlier this month to cut levels of ground-level ozone (O3), or smog. The new rule establishes a new limit of 75 ppb, down from 85 ppb.
Though the new rule shaves just 10 ppb from the old standard, it will quadruple the number of counties exceeding mandated limits. Groups representing children and the elderly had pressed for an even lower limit of 60 ppb.
Ozone forms at ground level when hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, mainly from power plants, factories and car exhaust emissions, react to sunlight. While not named specifically by EPA, drycleaners in particularly smoggy areas can look forward to increased enforcement activity under the new regulation.
Smog can contribute to shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing, coughing, heart trouble and premature deaths, according to EPA. The new standard will result in health benefits of up $19 billion, the agency says, and carry related compliance costs of $7.6 billion to $8.5 billion.