NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 26, 2005

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is using shaky science to propose costly, new ozone standards for the state, says Joel Schwartz (Heartland Institute). Meanwhile, researchers question the effect of ozone pollution on public health, and whether reductions will provide much of a health benefit.

CARB used an analysis of several single-city studies by the World Health Organization, but even WHO admits it likely overestimated the benefits of ozone reduction due to publication bias -- that is, there are more rewards for publishing significant positive findings than negative ones.

Several studies dispute the effects of ozone on mortality. For example:

  • A 2004 study in the Journal of Environmental Economics concludes an indistinguishable effect of ozone on mortality rates.
  • Researchers for the National Morbidity, Mortality and Air Pollution Study (NMMAPS) examined 95 U.S. cities and found that the relationship between ozone and mortality was 70 percent lower than the analysis of single-city studies.
  • CARB's own estimates show that more stringent standards would produce a mere .06 percent reduction in premature deaths, a .28 percent reduction in respiratory hospital admissions and a .49 percent reduction in asthma-induced emergency room visits.

Furthermore, the cost to Californians would be prohibitive:

  • CARB's new eight-hour ozone standard -- which is stricter than the EPA's standard -- would cost about $16.6 billion a year in the South Coast.
  • Risk analysts estimate that each $17 million in cost would actually induce one additional death since resources would be diverted from other risk-reduction measure.

CARB's proposed standard would kill more lives than it saves, says Schwartz.

Source: Joel Schwartz, "California Considers Stringent Ozone Standard," Heartland Institute, May 1, 2005; Gary Koop and Lisa Tole, "Measuring the Health Effects of Air Pollution: To What Extent Can We Really Say that People are Dying from Bad Air?" Journal of Environmental Economics, vol. 47, no. 1; JM Samet, et al., "The National Morbidity, Mortality, and Air Pollution Study. Part II: Morbidity and mortality from air pollution in the United States," Research Report, Health Effects Institute 2000, June 1994; and World Health Organization, "Health Aspects of Air Pollution with Particulate Matter, Ozone and Nitrogen Dioxide," January 2003.

For NMMAS study abstract:


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