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A Fresh Look at Ozone Air Pollution

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Monday, September 13, 2010

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This is a past event.

David Parrish

Over the past five decades the United States has implemented a series of air pollution control programs that have led to remarkable progress toward ensuring healthy air quality throughout the country, even in the largest cities that once had truly severe problems. Presently the rate of progress toward achieving the current National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone is slowing, at least by some measures. Nevertheless, there is serious ongoing consideration of lowering the ozone NAAQS still further. Even while U.S. urban air quality has improved, on the broadest spatial scale, the limited available data sets indicate that “background” ozone (i.e. that in the most pristine areas) at northern mid-latitudes increased substantially over the past century, and this increase continues today, at least in some regions. This background represents a substantial fraction of the current ozone NAAQS. This talk will discuss the U.S. approach to air quality improvement and demonstrate its remarkable success, briefly review the reasons for the call for further tightening of the ozone NAAQS, present evidence for the increasing background ozone and examine the difficulties of achieving a tighter NAAQS in the face of this increase. Finally some important gaps in our understanding of observed ozone concentrations and the corresponding research needs that relate to these issues will be identified.

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