Public health groups slam Obama retreat on smog, vow legal action

The American Public Health Association also expressed its "extreme disappointment" with the administration.

"We in the public health community, including EPA's own scientific advisors, have urged stronger ozone standards to safeguard the health of Americans," the group's interim executive director, Alan Baker, said in a statement. "The science is clear that ozone can cause asthma attacks, harm those suffering from respiratory illness, send people to the hospital and lead to death. We urge the administration to reconsider its decision and strengthen the health protections provided under the Clean Air Act based on the overwhelming scientific evidence."

The EPA has estimated that the new standards could have prevented 12,000 premature deaths and 58,000 asthma attacks a year.