Press Conference About the Dangers of Ozone

UPHE held a press conference on Tuesday, August 21, 2019 to discuss a new study from the Journal of American Medical Association that details the danger of ozone pollution, an issue that needs to be taken seriously by policy makers in our state. Current “safe levels” of ozone deemed by the state is as bad as smoking according to this study. Read study here.

At the press conference were four UPHE board members and local physicians (left to right in the photo below): Dr. John MacFarlane, Dr. Sarah Johnson, Dr. Kirtly Jones, and Dr. Brian Moench.

Dr. Brian Moench, UPHE Founder and President and the participating physicians bring the scientific perspective. According to Dr. Moench, President and Founder of UPHE, “Years ago, our physicians group compared the health effects of air pollution exposure to those from smoking cigarettes.  State officials pushed back at the time, wanting to believe that was overstating the case.  But the comparison was valid at the time, and newer studies like this one draw even a much stronger comparison.  Our summer time pollution is as potent in destroying lung tissue and lung function as smoking cigarettes.

“Lung inflammation from air pollution leads to long term decrease in lung function like cigarette smoking.  People can choose not to smoke but they cannot choose not to breathe, says Dr. Kirtly Jones, UPHE Board Member.

This press conference was covered by multiple news outlets. The Deseret News did a nice job of covering our press conference . The take home message is this:

1. Ozone, our primary air pollution problem in the summer, is just as much of a serious health hazard as our winter inversions.

2. Our lungs are exquisitely sensitive to ozone and are damaged by even small amounts. Just 3 ppb exposure over ten years caused as much lung damage as smoking a pack a day for 29 years. Our summer time ozone often spikes above 70 ppb.

3. The annual average ozone concentrations in Utah are much higher than even big cities like New York and Los Angeles.

4. We are poised to make the problem worse if we build the dirty energy inland port, and continue to approve more fossil fuel extraction through out the state. Read full Desert News story here.

Other news outlets that cover the press conference include ABC Channel 4 News with a good TV segment and KSL.

With this knowledge is it unacceptable to not make policy changes, let alone to consider building an inland port in a city with high levels of ozone.

When UPHE was formed in 2007, we compared air pollution to smoking cigarettes. For example, air pollution typical of winter inversions was the equivalent of smoking cigarettes, about a half a pack a day. The power brokers in state government were embarrassed and angered by that comparison and assigned a member of the DAQ to make a presentation mocking our comparison. It was a scientific disaster, but the state and our detractors still love trying to discredit that analogy.

Although that analogy has held up, we now have a virtually unassailable study that finds an even stronger comparison between air pollution and smoking. Published in the flag ship journal of the American Medical Association, an elegant study found this:

“If the ambient ozone level [over ten years] was 3 parts per billion higher where you live compared to another location, that was associated with an increase in emphysema roughly the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for 29 years.”

Just 3 ppb ozone over ten years accelerated lung disease as much as 29 years of smoking a pack a day! The EPA’s “safety” ozone standard is way too high, 70 ppb, and today the ozone level was 77 ppm!

All air pollution matters, even low levels are not safe, and yes, it is as bad as smoking cigarettes.