Ozone, Asthma, and EPA Junk Science

On June 22, 2017, the Arizona Daily Star ran a story with the alarmist headline: “Tucson-area air quality the worst in five years.” The “worst in five years” thing is that on just five days during the past three months ground-level ozone measurements exceeded the EPA standard of 70ppb by a few parts per billion. “Ozone levels at Saguaro National Park-East that topped the 70 parts per billion federal standard: June 15 — 77 ppb, June 14 — 73 ppb, May 12 — 71 ppb, April 21 — 73 ppb, April 20 — 74 ppb.” The EPA claims that ozone causes asthma and other respiratory ailments, hence the strict standards. But, the EPA’s own data debunks the claim.

For many years, the EPA has been conducting experiments on the effects of ozone exposure. They placed volunteers in a closed room and subjected them to 300ppb and 400ppb ozone for two hours while they performed mild exercise. The 6,000 volunteers included children, the elderly, and even asthmatics. The EPA reports that “not a single adverse event.. [was] observed.” (Source)

There is also independent data showing that EPA ozone standards are bunk. For instance, there was “No association between air quality (PM2.5, ozone) and hospital admissions for asthma in University of California-Davis Health System during 2010-2012 (19,000+ cases). (Source)

According to the Institute for Energy Research, “average ozone concentrations nationwide dropped by 33 percent from 1980 to 2014. Since the incorporation of the 2008 standards, average ozone levels have declined by more than 9 percent, nationally.”

IER also reports: “According to an August 2015 report by NERA Economic Consulting, which analyzed the impacts of a 65 ppb standard (EPA ultimately went with a slightly higher 70 ppb standard), the total compliance costs could total $1.13 trillion from 2017 to 2040. The rule could also lead to annualized GDP declines of $140 billion as well as $840 in consumption losses for households.” (Source)

The EPA’s rules were endorsed by a panel of scientists required by law to review them, called the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). Both the Clean Air Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act required that CASAC panels be independent and unbiased. So was the panel independent and/or unbiased? A report shows that members of the board received a total of $192 million worth of EPA grants. (Source)

Some background:

“Ground-level ozone is formed through a chemical reaction when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) interact with sunlight. Emissions from power plants, industrial facilities, automobiles, gasoline vapors and solvents are all sources of NOx and VOCs. Natural sources, such as plant life and fires, also contribute to the formation of ozone; today, given how much ozone levels in the United States have already been reduced, a significant portion of a given area’s ozone concentration is made up of natural background ozone and ozone that has traveled from other states and, increasingly, from overseas.” (Source, study by National Association of Manufacturers)

A measurement problem:

“While the EPA has long known that ozone measurements are significantly biased upward by mercury vapor, the agency has required States to use ultraviolet ozone monitors subject to mercury interference. These ozone monitors blow air between an ultraviolet (UV) lamp and a UV detector. Ozone strongly absorbs UV, so reductions in UV arriving at the detector are proportional to the ozone in the air. But mercury vapor and other contaminants in air also absorb UV, thus, artificially inflating the amount of ‘ozone’ that is measured. The bias can range from a few parts per billion to many more.” (Source)

Mercury occurs in soil in and around Tucson. It is possible that readings recorded by local instruments may be “biased upward” by the mercury contained in blowing dust. A study in Avra Valley, west of Tucson, found soil mercury values up to 750ppb. (Arizona Geological Survey, Open-File Report 81-5, 1981).

The AZ Star article expresses much concern over the County exceeding EPA standards. These standards are the current law, so they may have economic consequences for non-attainment. There is, however, no proof that exceeding these standards have any effect on health.

See also: EPA experiments on humans debunk their ozone and particulate matter health claims