Are Federal Ozone Standards About to be Lowered?

Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of reviewing the ozone national ambient air quality standard. The regulations were last updated in March of 2008, when the agency established a standard of 0.075 parts per million for average exposure over an 8-hour period. In January of this year, the EPA proposed lowering the standard to one in the range of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm in order to “provide requisite protection of public health and welfare,” i.e. the ozone concentration above which exposure is potentially harmful. Since that time, the agency has been accepting comments and supporting materials as well as public submissions both in favor of and opposing the proposed increase in standards. The EPA is due to release the final rules by August 31, 2010.

As you know from our last post, Ozone is currently used as a sterilant gas in the healthcare industry. Because of the health affects that exposure to ozone can have on the eyes and respiratory system, OSHA has set an 8 hour time-weighted average permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 0.1ppm. The OSHA PEL has not been updated for nearly forty years, and perhaps it is time for OSHA to revise its PEL for Ozone in light of the current scientific data. With such minute amounts of gas able to cause significant health problems (the NIOSH immediately dangerous to life and health limit is just 5ppm), it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to immediately identify a leak without a continuous area monitor. Continuous monitoring is about to become even more important to employee safety, assuming the proposed regulations become final.

For access to the proposed regulations and supporting materials, visit:
http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#docketDetail?R=EPA-HQ-OAR-2005-0172