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PHOENIX MEETS ONE-HOUR OZONE NATIONAL HEALTH STANDARD

Release Date: 5/16/2001
Contact Information: Wendy L. Chavez, EPA, 415/744-1588 Jim Fallin, ADEQ, 602/207-2215

SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that the Phoenix metropolitan area has met the one-hour air quality health standard for ground-level ozone, the primary component of smog.

     The Phoenix area has carried out a number of smog control measures since being designated a non-attainment area and classified as serious for ozone in 1997.  Arizona's key air quality improvements include cleaner burning gasoline, a vehicle emissions inspection program, and numerous pollution reduction measures for industrial and commercial sources.

     The Clean Air Act requires three years of clean data and the Phoenix area has not experienced a single day with smog levels above the one-hour ozone standard since 1996.  Based on this record, the EPA is suspending several air quality planning requirements in the Phoenix area that are unnecessary for areas meeting the one-hour ozone standard.

     "Poor air quality affects everyone and Phoenix is taking a major step toward cleaning up the Valley's air,"  said Jack Broadbent, the Air Division director for the EPA's Pacific Southwest office.  "Although Phoenix has made great strides in reducing smog, its citizens and businesses must continue to work together to help reduce air pollution."    

     "We have achieved a major milestone in meeting the federal one-hour ozone standard and we will continue to implement pollution reducing strategies to improve the quality of life for Arizona citizens," said Governor Jane Dee Hull.

     Although the Phoenix area has met the one-hour ozone health standard, this is only the first step toward redesignating Phoenix as a clean air attainment area.  To qualify for redesignation, Arizona must submit a plan that shows how the region will continue to meet the clean air standard for the next 10 years.

     The Clean Air Act, which was last amended in 1990, requires the EPA to set national air quality standards for pollutants that threaten public health and the environment.  When an area violates a health-based standard, the Clean Air Act requires that the area be designated as non-attainment for that pollutant.  
                             
Why the Focus on Ozone?
       
    Smog is formed when volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide interact in the presence of sunlight.  Ground-level ozone should not be confused with ozone in the "ozone layer" 10 to 30 miles above the earth, which protects us from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.


     Cars, trucks and buses are the main source of the pollutants that make smog.  Fossil fuel burning at electric power plants, gas stations, print shops, household products like paints and cleaners, as well as lawn and garden equipment, also contribute to smog formation.
                               
    Ground-level ozone irritates nose, throat and lungs and can also damage lung tissue making it harder to breathe.  Additionally, it may cause coughing, headaches, nausea, as well as, premature aging of lung tissue.


     Poor air quality impacts everyone, but some people are particularly affected, including children who are active outdoors, outdoor workers, the elderly and those with respiratory diseases such as asthma.
   
    Top 5 Things People Can Do to Help Lower Ozone


1. Use public transportation, bike or walk whenever possible.

2. If you must drive, carpool and combine trips.

3. Go to the gas station at night to cut down on gasoline vapors getting into the air during day light hours when the sun can cook the vapors and form ozone.

4. Use less electricity - turn air conditioning to a higher temperature, turn out lights and computer screens when you're not using them.

5. Avoid using gasoline powered engines, such as lawn mowers, chain saws and leaf blower on unhealthy air days.

Additional information on Phoenix ozone actions will be available at http://www.epa.gov/region09/air/phoenixoz/

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