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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2004

Contact: Peter Boger
(609) 984-1795

DEP ANNOUNCES FIRST OZONE EXCEEDANCE OF THE SEASON
Reminds People that Vehicle Emissions Play a Significant Role in Ozone Levels

(04/49) Trenton -- The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced that yesterday was the first day in 2004 when New Jersey exceeded the federal 8-hour health-based ozone standard.

"With the start of ozone season, residents need to be aware of the potential health impacts on high ozone days - irritation of the lungs, increased incidents of asthma, and aggravation of chronic lung diseases," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "New Jersey residents can help reduce emissions of ozone-causing pollutants by minimizing unnecessary driving, taking public transportation, fueling cars in the evening, not topping off gas tanks, and limiting vehicle idling."

Ozone season typically runs from around May through Labor Day when high temperatures contribute to increased formation of ground-level ozone. During this time, DEP alerts the public when forecasts call for high levels of ozone. On these days, children and people with asthma should reduce outdoor activities while healthy individuals should reduce strenuous outdoor activities such as jogging, especially during the afternoon and early evening when ozone levels are at their highest.

Under Governor James E. McGreevey's leadership, the state has begun a number of initiatives to address air quality. These include being the first state ever to negotiate the shutdown of a dirty power plant outside its borders; securing significant emission reductions in enforcement cases against several utilities; proposing the most stringent regulations of mercury emissions in the nation; and preparing a comprehensive set of initiatives to reduce emissions from diesel engines.

Last month, the federal government declared that 474 counties nationwide fail to attain the new, protective 8-hour health standard for ozone levels in the air. New Jersey is one of only five states where every county fails to meet the new ozone standard. As a result, New Jersey has until 2010 to implement additional measures to meet the standard.

In 2003, New Jersey exceeded the new federal health standard for ozone on 20 days.

"Attaining the new federal health standard for ozone in New Jersey would eliminate about 40,000 asthma attacks each year and substantially reduce hospital admissions and emergency room visits among children and adults with asthma and other respiratory diseases," said Commissioner Campbell. "However, up to one-third of the state's air pollution comes from out-of-state sources. The Bush Administration must halt its rollbacks of critical air quality protections and provide effective federal leadership and new regulations to control emissions from upwind states. Otherwise, we will not be able to provide New Jersey's residents with the quality of air they deserve."

Example of rollbacks by the Bush Administration include an attempt to change the "new source review" (NSR) provisions of the Clean Air Act to allow dirty, upwind power plants to keep operating indefinitely without installing pollution controls. New Jersey has joined several other states in suing the EPA to halt this proposed change. The Bush EPA has also proposed mercury rules that would delay implementation of meaningful reductions in mercury emissions for up to a generation and even then not implement as protective a reduction as the Clean Air Act requires.

The federal ozone health standard is a concentration of 0.08 parts per million (ppm) averaged over eight hours (8-hour average). In 1997, this more protective standard replaced the earlier standard of 0.12 ppm averaged over one hour (1-hour average) after studies demonstrated health impacts from prolonged exposure to lower levels of ozone.

Yesterday, an air monitor in Ancora in eastern Camden recorded a maximum 8-hour average ozone concentration of 0.092 ppm and a monitor in Colliers Mills in western Ocean County had a 0.094 ppm 8-hour average.

Ozone occurs naturally in the upper regions of the atmosphere and is critical to shielding the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation. In the lower atmosphere, where the air we breathe lies, ozone is a harmful air pollutant, contributing to the formation of smog. Ground-level ozone is formed when pollutants emitted by automobiles and industrial facilities react in the presence of sunlight. Ozone pollution is especially of concern during the summer months when the weather conditions needed to form elevated levels of ground-level ozone normally occur.

A copy of a recent DEP report detailing the McGreevey Administration's clean air initiatives is available at http://www.nj.gov/dep. Daily ozone and air quality forecasts are available at http://www.nj.gov/dep/airmon.

 

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