American Lung Association in New York Calls for Tighter Nitrogen Dioxide Air Pollution Standard

More Protective Air Quality Standard Would Reduce Harmful Pollution in NY

ALBANY, NY (06/26/2009)(readMedia)-- The American Lung Association in New York calls on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen the national ambient air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide (NO2). EPA is expected to release its proposal today to revise this public health standard that has remained unchanged since 1971.

"Given that traffic and power plants are the two major sources of NO2, we know that many New York residents are forced to breathe in this harmful pollutant which can irritate the lungs and aggravate asthma," said Michael Seilback, Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy. "We need the EPA to strengthen the standard for this pollutant so that we can take steps to improve the quality of air our residents breathe."

Changes to the national air quality standard for NO2 pollution will become the new official limit on this air pollutant that each county in the nation must meet. The new NO2 standard will trigger federally enforced clean up measures designed to protect people from the harm that breathing this pollutant can cause.

Scientific research shows that the current NO2 standard fails to protect the public health. Additionally, according to recent research, NO2 levels seem the highest near major highways meaning that people who live or go to school near these thoroughfares are particularly at risk.

The Lung Association strongly supports the establishment of a stringent one-hour daily maximum standard of 50 ppb or below to best protect the health of people with asthma and other vulnerable groups. The Lung Association also supports strengthening of the annual average standards in order to protect against the long-term harm NO2 may have on lung health. Under the Clean Air Act, standards must be based on what is necessary to protect public health.

The Lung Association recommends the installation of additional air pollution monitors to identify areas where the highest levels of NO2 pollution exist. Currently there are only nine NO2 monitors in seven counties of New York (Bronx, Erie, Nassau, New York, Queens, Steuben, and Suffolk). Strategic placement of additional monitors could more accurately measure the levels of NO2 pollution in New York and better help guide where clean-up measures should be focused.

EPA must set its final rule for NO2 air quality by January 22, 2010. The American Lung Association will participate in EPA-led public hearings to advocate for air quality standards that best protect public health in all areas of the country.