Ozone Pollution and Health in Atlanta: The Implications of a Presidential Decision

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John Wargo
Essay Abstract: 
Due to recognized adverse effects on human health and the environment, tropospheric ozone is regulated and limited by the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Despite the legal mandate to revise these standards according to updated scientific evidence and to ensure protection of public health, the Obama Administration suspended the September 2011 recommendations for limits of between 0.060-0.070 ppm and instead set national limits at 0.075 ppm. The goal of this project was to understand the public health implications of this decision in Atlanta, Georgia. Population data, incidence rates, air quality levels, and effect estimates were analyzed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s BenMAP program t predict the difference in premature mortality, respiratory hospital admissions in the elderly, and emergency department (ED) visits for asthma under the different standards. Results suggest that there will be minor changes in premature mortality and asthma ED visits, but the most significant public health effects will be experienced by the elderly population. Overall, the data generated provide a concrete estimate of the consequences of neglect of environmental legislation that will continue to burden this country in the coming years.