The American Thoracic Society (ATS) issued a strong condemnation of the White House’s decision to overrule the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to adopt a stricter standard for ground-level ozone.

“This is not change we believe in,” said Monica Kraft, MD, president-elect of ATS and professor of medicine and director of the Asthma, Allergy and Airway Center at Duke University.

Ground-level ozone—one of the components of photochemical smog—is a known danger to patients with asthma, COPD, and other respiratory conditions. Scientific studies have consistently shown that ozone at the current EPA-approved levels leads to missed school days, more emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and even premature death, according to the ATS.

The EPA’s proposal called for lowering the ozone standard set by the Bush administration in 2008 to a new stricter standard. The new standard would result in hundreds of counties nationwide to fall out of compliance with the Clean Air Act. The current administration, which considered the new standard a regulatory burden to businesses, will continue following the Bush administration standard until 2013 when a acceptable pollution limits are scheduled to be reconsidered.

“What President Obama has called a ‘regulatory burden’ is what we physicians call a protective health standard,” said Kraft.

The ATS, along with the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have long called on the current administration to issue a stricter ozone standard.

“President Obama’s announcement represents a big setback for the public’s health,” said Kraft. “The ATS urges the President to reconsider today’s disappointing decision, and we plan to redouble our efforts to educate and advocate for cleaner air for the benefit of all U.S. citizens.”

Source: American Thoracic Society