Gino DiCaro

State of the Air: State of the Scare

By Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications

Capitol Update, May 6, 2005 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Joel Schwartz, a visiting Fellow with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), has just published his annual assessment of the "State of the Air", the latest report by the American Lung Association (ALA).  Prior to AEI, Schwartz worked with the Reason Public Policy Institute's Air Quality Project, California Inspection and Maintenance Review Committee, RAND Corporation, South Coast Air Quality Management District, and the Coalition for Clean Air.

Schwartz concludes that "State of the Air" continues to exaggerate air pollution levels and health risks: "Four of the last five years were the four lowest ozone years since national monitoring began in the mid 1970's."  In fact in 2004, the number of days exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (US-EPA's) 8-hour standard, nationwide, dropped 50 percent from 2003 which was already a record low year.

Some scientists suggest that weather conditions that did not favor ozone formation were responsible for the low levels, but there have been other years with similar conditions and the levels weren't anywhere near as low as 2004.  Not only have ozone levels dropped, but also the levels of fine particulates (PM2.5) are at record lows.  As Schwartz points out, "these pollution improvements occurred despite large increases in energy use and a doubling of total miles driven by motor vehicles since 1980."

If one monitor in a county records a reading that violates a pollution standard, ALA counts everyone in the county as breathing "bad' air.  They also base their particulate on a much tougher warning level standard than US-EPA's actual PM2.5 standard.  Under these standards, ALA claims that 152 million Americans live in areas that violate federal pollution standards.  

In addition, ALA uses data from 2001-2003 for its estimates rather than more recent and available 2002-2004 data.  Using 2002-2004 data would have further lowered the number of Americans living in areas that violate US-EPA health standards.  Furthermore, ALA creates the impression that everyone living in areas that exceed US-EPA's air standards is suffering serious health damage or even death.  But, US-EPA estimates that even large ozone reductions result in only miniscule health improvements.

Read Mr. Schwartz' complete analysis in State of the Scare 

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