Some Health Benefits of Ground-Level Ozone

For decades, environmentalists have been calling for drastic limits on ozone to protect public health. But the benefits of ground-level ozone are often ignored.

In a recent paper, a team from the National Center for Atmospheric Research finds that efforts to reduce ozone emissions lead to exposing more of the population to elements known to induce sunburn and skin cancer:

Improving air quality by reducing ambient ozone (O3) will likely lower O3 concentrations throughout the troposphere and increase the transmission of solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation to the surface … These relative increments in exposure are non-negligible given the already high incidence of UV-related health effects…

Ozone in the upper atmosphere protects us from ultraviolet radiation, but at ground level it can cause temporary respiratory problems and is the main constituent of urban smog. Environmentalists and their counterparts often use junk science and small studies to make the case for squeezing billions of dollars out of industry for very marginal benefits.

But with rent-seeking groups like the American Lung Association lambasting generally safe levels of ozone, maybe groups like the American Academy of Dermatologists should be adding some more context to the debate on ozone’s health effects.

Adam Peshek is a research associate at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets, where he focuses on energy and environmental policy.