EPA releases final ozone standard

Air Mail bulletin

EPA releases final ozone standard

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today a new ground-level ozone standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb), which has been lowered from 75ppb.  Based on preliminary 2015 monitoring data, all monitors in Minnesota are able to meet the standard.  Currently, the highest ozone monitors in Minnesota are at 65ppb and are located in Blaine and Marshall.  To find out more about the new standard and ozone levels in Minnesota, visit the MPCA’s new ozone standard webpage.

Ground-level ozone, also known as smog, is a pollutant that can irritate the lungs and worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma, among other known health impacts.  The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to review national standards for ozone and other wide-spread air pollutants every five years to ensure that the standards align with the most current scientific evidence and are protective of human health and the environment.  The standard was lowered today because EPA determined that the scientific evidence indicates that health impacts occur at lower concentrations of ozone than previously thought.  For more information on ozone, visit the MPCA’s ozone webpage.

The MPCA and our partners in Clean Air Minnesota have been working together in recent years to develop programs to voluntarily reduce ozone concentrations in the state.  This effort was propelled by an understanding that health impacts are seen – especially in vulnerable individuals – even at ozone concentrations below the standard.  We also wanted to keep ahead of the new standard to ensure that Minnesota would be able to comply with the new regulation. 

The fact that we are currently under the standard doesn’t mean our work is done, though!  We are still very close to the standard and if ozone levels go up – even if it is due to weather – we could be in violation of the standard.  We may also have responsibilities to lower our emissions to help our neighboring states come into compliance with the standard.  And every five years EPA must review the ozone standard; in recent years they have been finding health impacts at lower and lower concentrations of the pollutant, resulting in a lower and lower standard.  In order to continue to protect the health of all Minnesotans and comply with current and future national standards, we will need to continue to voluntarily reduce the emissions that cause ozone.  We at the MPCA look forward to continuing to work with our partners in Clean Air Minnesota and beyond to continue this important work!

Please visit our website for more information on the new ozone standard and what it means for Minnesotans.  For more information on air pollution and its impacts on Minnesotans’ health, visit BeAirAwareMN.org.