For Immediate Release, February 10, 2021


Robert Ukeiley, Center for Biological Diversity, (720) 496-8568,
Kaya Allan Sugerman, Center for Environmental Health, (510) 740-9384,

Lawsuit Launched to Fight EPA’s Delay in Ensuring Smog Reduction in California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Hampshire

OAKLAND, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Environmental Health filed a legal notice today of their intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to ensure that numerous major metropolitan regions have effective plans to reduce dangerous smog pollution.

The affected areas include Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties as well as Sacramento, Chicago and metropolitan regions in New York and New Jersey. The notice also addresses violations in New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

“For too long the EPA has failed to protect people from the dangerous health effects of smog,” said Robert Ukeiley, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Allowing smog pollution is a political choice, and when the EPA fails to control it, it’s children and the elderly who tend to pay the highest price.”

The EPA determined that the areas covered by today’s action have smog pollution at levels high enough to trigger health problems and ecological harm.

“The evidence that smog pollution contributes to adverse health effects is unmistakable,” said Kaya Allan Sugerman, director of the Center for Environmental Health’s illegal toxic threats program. “EPA is legally obligated to ensure more people do not needlessly die from COVID-19 due to unsafe levels of smog pollution.”

Human exposure to ground-level ozone can increase the frequency of asthma attacks, make the lungs more susceptible to infection, inflame and damage airways, make it more difficult to breath, and aggravate various lung diseases including emphysema, asthma and bronchitis, according to the EPA. Alarmingly, these effects have been found in healthy individuals but are more serious in vulnerable populations and among people with underlining health conditions.

Exposure to smog pollution leads to increased visits to emergency rooms, missed school and work days, increased medication use and even deaths. The EPA found that places with elevated concentrations of ozone and long-term exposure to ozone are not only linked to the aggravation of asthma but can cause it to develop.

Smog exposure can also worsen the effects of COVID-19. The World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined that individuals with asthma are one of the highest risk groups for COVID-19. This contributes to a growing canon of evidence that people who live in areas with polluted air have an increased likelihood of experiencing more severe cases of COVID-19.

Ozone pollution also harms the natural environment. The EPA has found that the effects of ozone on plants can damage whole ecosystems, including through the loss of species diversity and decreased habitat quality.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Center for Environmental Health works with parents, communities, businesses, workers, and government to protect children and families from toxic chemicals in homes, workplaces, schools and neighborhoods.