Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am pleased to be here today, and am pleased to welcome George Thurston of NYU back to the committee.
The air pollution issues that we are here to discuss today—ozone and particulate matter—are critical public health issues.
Ozone pollution causes a range of respiratory problems—from difficulty breathing, to aggravation of asthma, to lung damage. Ozone pollution is also linked to premature death.
Similarly, particulate matter pollution is linked to aggravation of heart and lung diseases and to premature death. I believe that Senator Jeffords has already stated that Harvard research indicates that as many as 70,000 Americans die prematurely each year as a result of air pollution. That is a staggering figure, and shows that we have a lot of work to do.
There was considerable controversy when the ozone and particulate matter standards that we are finally implementing were set in 1997.
Since that time, the scientific evidence has grown stronger, and suggests that even though we are just beginning to implement the 1997 standards, they may not be adequately protective of public health.
I want to briefly mention a couple of those studies, and I know that Dr. Thurston will expand on this point in his testimony.
The first is a Yale University study by Janneane Gent, which was published last October in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study looked at 271 children under the age of 12 with active asthma in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and measured their response to two air pollutants, ozone and very small particulate matter.
The key funding from this study is that a one-hour exposure to air containing 50 parts per billion of ozone caused a significant increase in wheezing and chest tightness in those children, and increased their use of symptom-relieving drugs. In other words, ozone exacerbates asthma in children at concentrations below the current one-hour level of 120 parts per billion and the new eight-hour exposure standard is 80 parts per billion.
The second study I want to cite is one that Dr. Thurston was principal investigator on. This study, published in 2002 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that long-term exposure to particulate matter is associated with an increased risk of death from cardio-pulmonary disease and lung cancer. The increased lung-cancer risk in polluted U.S. cities was found to be comparable to the risk to a non-smoker from living with a smoker.
Given these studies and the mounting evidence which suggest that ozone and PM pollution are harming our children and those who live in polluted areas, I think we need to move to quickly implement the new particulate matter and ozone standards. We also need to look at revising the standards, as the Clean Air Act requires. I understand that EPA has been dragging its feet on revising the PM 2.5.
They are certainly important issues in my state of New York.
The New York City metropolitan area is a non-attainment area under the one-hour ozone standard. It will be a non-attainment area under the 8-hour standard as well, and it appears that most urban upstate areas will be as well.
Implementing these new standards will be complex, and I think there are a number of outstanding questions that I hope we will have time to get into today and in subsequent hearing.
Finally, I want to note that I am one of the 44 senators who is today calling on Governor Leavitt to withdraw the proposed mercury rule and put out a new, more protective standard.