Officials Say San Antonio Ozone Levels Could Seriously Harm Residents

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The city has released a long-awaited study on how air pollution in San Antonio impacts the overall health and economy of the city. The study, which appears to have been originally published in September, specifically shows how even small changes to the city's amount of ozone (a cocktail of pollution often called "smog") in the air could seriously harm its population.

(Note: This study was released a day after the Current published a story on the impact ozone has on the city's health and economy.)

At the moment, Bexar County's air has has ozone levels around 73 parts per billion (ppb), exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency's 70 ppb standard (fortunately for Bexar County, the EPA has yet to crack down on counties that haven't met this standard).

The study reveals some information that's already been made public, like the fact San Antonio would see an additional 19 respiratory deaths per year if its ozone levels raised to 80 ppb, and would avoid 24 deaths annually if ozone level drops below 68 ppb. What's new, however, is the city's estimated price of these lost lives.

According to the study, the death of 19 to ozone-related respiratory issues would cost $170 million. And the 24 avoided deaths would save a total of $220 million. A map shows that those most vulnerable to respiratory deaths live in southeast Bexar County — closest to the Eagle Ford oil and gas region.

Researchers also calculated the annual number of lost school days (over 32,000), emergency room visits for asthma attacks (5) and other ozone-related hospital visits (18) that would result of ozone levels at 80 ppb.

This is the first local study published on how ozone levels impact Bexar County residents' health.

“The science is unanimous: ozone pollution compromises the health of our more sensitive residents, including children, the elderly or people with existing respiratory issues,” said Dr. Colleen Bridger, director of Metro Health, in a Wednesday press statement. “Research has shown even healthy individuals are impacted by regular exposure to ozone pollution.”

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