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SALT LAKE CITY -- Smog. It's one of Utah's greatest health threats.
Now the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing strict new rules for ground-level ozone, which form when emissions from industrial facilities, power plants, landfills and motor vehicles react in the sun.
Clean air advocates applaud the move.
"More and more medical stories are coming out in peer-reviewed journals. Scientific evidence is saying there is no safe level of ozone of PM 2.5," says Cherise Udell, with Utah Moms for Clean Air.
Dr. Brian Moench, with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, says, "Well, I think it's good news for everybody. It's especially good news for people along the Wasatch Front, because as everybody here can tell, we have some real serious air quality problems, and they translate into some real serious public health problems."
Researchers say smog decreases life expectancy and increases blood pressure, the risk of heart attack and stroke, and the number of premature deaths. They say it also has a profound impact on the development of lungs and brains of children.
But the American Petroleum Institute says the standards could trigger "unnecessary energy cost increases" and job losses.
Meantime, much of the Wasatch Front is already out of compliance under the current rules.
"Now, where the standards are near background levels her in the West, it really will be a challenge and will be a regional issue as we work with other states in recducing the emissions to lead to ozone," says Bryce Bird, with the Utah Division of Air Quality.
State air quality officials say this standard will be even tougher to meet right now because of the state's difficult budget situation.
"We don't have the ability to add staff to address this, and so it will be an additional challenge for us, especially in the coming years," Bird says.
That challenge will be one faced by virtually every state. With the new rules, hundreds more counties nationwide will likely be in violation.
The EPA will soon take public comment on the changes. Public hearings will take place in Virginia, Texas and California in February.