About our Ozone and Allergies
Ozone is a reactive gas that is composed of three oxygen atoms (O3). It can be either natural or man-made. Natural ozone is created by oxygen in the atmosphere interacting with UV radiation; this is how the Earth’s ozone layer was created. Up in the atmosphere, ozone works to filter UV radiation and keep it from reaching the Earth’s surface. Man-made ozone results from reactions between volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. VOCs can come from chemical plants, gasoline pumps, oil-based paints, auto body shops, and print shops. Nitrogen oxides often come from high temperature combustion, sources of which include power plants, industrial furnaces and boilers, and motor vehicles.
While high ozone levels are typically associated with large urban areas, they can occur anywhere. Ozone can travel for hundreds of miles on wind patterns, settling in new areas far away from where it originated. This also means high ozone levels can occur at any time of the day or night, though they risk being the highest in the afternoon during the heat of the day.
Because of its reactive qualities, ozone that is inhaled can react with the tissues and biological molecules present in the respiratory tract. This can lead to severe inflammation of the respiratory passages, decrease lung function, and induce respiratory symptoms. Those symptoms include:
- throat irritation
- chest pain, burning, or discomfort when taking a breath
- chest tightness, wheezing, or shortness of breath
In addition, research has shown that higher levels of ozone in the air can lead to increased asthma attacks, hospitalizations, and risk of death. Ozone can trigger asthma attacks, increase sensitivity to asthma triggers, and aggravate existing asthma symptoms.
Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016:
With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at H.R. 4775. While its detractors call it the ‘Smoggy Skies Act’, its official name is the ‘Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016‘. The bill is a direct answer to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) set by the EPA. By revising these standards as they are currently written in the Clean Air Act, this bill will do a couple of things:
First, it will delay the clean air standards set by the EPA in 2015, extending the deadline for compliance until October 26, 2024. In addition, it will delay the EPA declaring areas of the states as ‘attainment’, ‘non-attainment’, or ‘unclassifiable’ under the 2015 NAAQS regulations until 2025.
Second, it will change the EPA’s review cycle for criteria pollutants from a 5 year cycle to a 10 year cycle, with the next review not being allowed before October 26, 2025. And prior to establishing any new regulations, the EPA must meet with its advisory committee to assess the benefits and costs associated with making changes to the NAAQS.
How will H.R. 4775 Impact Allergy Sufferers:
So what will this mean if you suffer from asthma or other respiratory allergies? It means the clean air requirements that were established by the EPA in 2015 will have their implementation delayed until at least 2024. Supporters of the bill may cite the costs of retrofitting manufacturing facilities to meet these higher air quality standards on relatively short notice, and they may also cite the costs of retrofitting old factories to meet these new standards. It could potentially mean that manufacturing facilities in U.S. cities with the worst air quality will have more time to retrofit their facilities to meet the new requirements, leading to many more years of individuals suffering increased allergy and asthma attacks due to pollution. It could also potentially weaken the Clean Air Act’s limits on other potentially dangerous pollutants, such as Carbon Monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide, leading to an increase in those pollutants in the air.
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