In DepthBehind the Numbers

GOP legislators choke on ozone standards

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Science  18 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6254, pp. 1268
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6254.1268

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Later this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to announce steps to protect public health by issuing tougher federal air-quality standards for ground-level ozone, a key component of smog. Many Republicans strongly oppose the change, calling it another ill-advised government regulation that will hurt the economy. A group of medical professionals in Congress has added a new twist to that argument, pointing out in a letter to EPA that ground-level ozone levels have fallen by 18% since 2001 even as the prevalence of asthma has risen by 15%. "This lack of correlation," they argue, refutes the agency's argument that "more stringent ozone standards are necessary to protect public health." Their novel argument is based on real numbers. But health experts say the doctors are overlooking their training in both medicine and statistics.