White House abandons new ozone standards

Some physicians and public health groups say the administration is ignoring science showing damage from ozone pollution. Obama cites costs and the regulatory burden.

By Charles Fiegl — Posted Sept. 19, 2011

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

The White House has shelved new ozone air quality standards indefinitely after considering the impact of the proposed rule on a recovering economy.

Physician specialty groups and other health associations expressed deep disappointment after the Sept. 2 decision. The American Lung Assn. said the Obama administration, which already had delayed implementing tougher ozone standards for two years, is putting lives at risk unnecessarily.

In a statement, President Obama defended the decision. He said his administration has a good record on the environment, having required reduced mercury levels and other toxic air pollution from older power plants, and announced plans to double fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks.

"My commitment and the commitment of my administration to protecting public health and the environment is unwavering," Obama said.

However, the president said he had to consider the financial impact of implementing new ozone standards on factories and businesses. Industry groups had estimated that attainment costs would reach $1 trillion by 2020. Obama also did not want the Environmental Protection Agency to introduce new standards when the agency would be required to update air quality regulations again in 2013.

"Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered," Obama said.

The agency had proposed updating the ozone limit with a more stringent requirement of 60 parts per billion averaged over eight hours. The current standard is 75 parts per billion.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Thoracic Society and the American College of Preventive Medicine were among 14 organizations that urged the president to finalize a new ozone standard in August.

Ozone causes injuries to the lungs when inhaled, and people with preexisting lung diseases have difficulty breathing on days when ozone levels are high, the groups said.

Tougher ozone standards would improve public health, especially among children, and outweigh the economic costs to the rest of society, physicians said.

"We felt there was adequate scientific evidence to support the change, and by not changing the standards the administration is ignoring the science that is out there," said Jerome Paulson, MD, medical director for the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children's Health and the Environment in Washington.

The American Lung Assn. sued the federal government over ozone regulations in 2008.

The lawsuit had been set aside while the Obama administration considered toughening up the regulations.

The association will consider how to proceed with the case now that the administration has abandoned its efforts, said Paul Billings, vice president of national policy and advocacy.

"We intend to fully exercise our legal rights," he said.

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn