Photo by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Our air will soon become safer and healthier.

Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a rule that will reduce the allowable amount of ground-level ozone in the air to 70 parts per billion — down from its previous threshold of 75. Ozone is the nation’s primary source of pollution, and can result in numerous problems including respiratory symptoms, asthma attacks, decreased lung function and swelling of the airways.

APHA had called for a new standard — which was last set by EPA in 2008 — to be stronger, based on the available science. According to the American Lung Association, an ozone limit of 60 ppb would have prevented up to 1.8 million asthma attacks in children, 1.9 million school days missed and 7,900 premature deaths nation.

While the new level is not the most protective of public health, “this is a significant step in the right direction,” APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, said in a news release. “With stronger protections in place we will see fewer adverse health outcomes, including premature deaths, asthma attacks and heart disease and stroke.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy added: ““Put simply – ozone pollution means it hurts to breathe for those most vulnerable: our kids, our elderly and those suffering from heart and lung ailments. Our job is to set science-backed standards that protect the health of the American people. Today’s action is one of the most important measures we can take for improving public health, reducing the costs of illness and protecting our children’s health.”

Visit EPA’s website to view the final version of the rule.