What’s the Deal with Smog?

The day before we all settled down to our hectic Thanksgiving dinners, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) released a statement that they plan to set a new limit on how much smog is allowed in the US.

I found this out today when I was poking around on grist.org and discovered this article about smog.

Smog is ozone that is ground level where humans can breathe it in. When I think of ozone, I picture the invisible and ominous “ozone layer” way high up in the stratosphere. Ozone is a good thing up there because it blocks out some of the UV rays that can cause skin cancer, but when ozone seeps and gathers low to the ground, it’s real bad.

It acts like a carcinogen. When you breathe in too much smog, it starts to diminish your lung function. This is why the American Lung Association is very interested in the EPA’s announcement:

The EPA hopes to limit smog concentrations to 70-65 ppb (parts per billion in the atmosphere). Apparently, 60 ppb is the most ideal for health, not 70 or 65 ppb. 60 ppb. Lots and lots of health benefits will come with 60 ppb: less cases of asthma, less kids missing school, less adults missing work, and less premature deaths.

All good things. Everyone loves clear air. But the US hasn’t even met the last smog-standard. It’s hard to limit smog because that means we have to change the way that we do things, which is never easy.

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