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Last updated January 1, 2014

American Lung Association Warning:

Proposed EPA Air Pollution Index Sends Mixed Message About Health Hazards

Washington, D.C. - The American Lung Association criticized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for proposing a new national air pollution warning system that fails to adequately inform people when air pollution levels are unhealthful.

"Up until now, people knew when air quality standards were violated because EPA labeled them 'Code Red,'" said John R. Garrison, CEO of the American Lung Association. "Now, under the new EPA plan, Code Red will apply only after air pollution levels exceed the standard by 50 percent. What kind of public health warning system is this?"

On January 25, 1999, the Lung Association filed comments on the EPA's proposed revisions to the Pollution Standard Index (PSI). The index has been used by state air pollution officials for many years. Under the EPA proposal, air pollution levels up to 50 percent above the air quality standard would be labeled "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" and designated Code Orange. In the past, these levels would have been labeled Code Red, a designation that carries a much stronger warning for the general public.

"Up to one-third of our population can be adversely affected at such levels," said Garrison. "With one of every three people potentially experiencing health effects under these conditions, it is clearly time to warn the public with a clear message. Code Red calls for action. Code Orange may not be taken as seriously.

"Many people do not know that they are sensitive to air pollution until it is too late. When we hear Code Red, we take steps to protect our families, and ourselves especially the most vulnerable among us, including the elderly and very young children," said Garrison.

"The Lung Association is calling on the EPA to revise it proposal and adopt a public health warning system that will truly warn the public," he said.

The American Lung Association has been fighting lung disease for more than 90 years. With the generous support of the public and the help of our volunteers, we have seen many advances against lung disease. However, our work is not finished. As we look forward to our second century, we will continue to strive to make breathing easier for everyone. Along with our medical section, the American Thoracic Society, we provide programs of education, community service, advocacy and research. The American Lung Association's activities are supported by donations to Christmas Seals® and other voluntary contributions. You may obtain additional information via our America Online site, keyword: ALA, or our web site at


American Lung Association. 1999. American Lung Association Warning: Proposed EPA Air Pollution Index Sends Mixed Message About Health Hazards. January 26, 1999. /




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