The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued a press release this week announcing that Houston is in attainment for fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, extremely small pollution particles that easily enter the lungs. While the release gave a “good news” story about Houston area industries working together to solve the related environmental and public health issues, it didn’t mention that in April, EPA released its first draft policy assessment on PM2.5 recommending consideration of even stronger standards. These stronger standards will most certainly put Houston out of attainment once again.
Why is EPA considering changes to the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for PM2.5?
Mounting scientific evidence warns of the health threats derived from both long- and short-term exposures to these fine particles floating in the air.
PM2.5 exposure is known to result in a variety of very serious health problems, including:
- Pre-mature mortality
- Increased risk of hospital and emergency room visits for those with heart or lung diseases
- Development of lung diseases like chronic bronchitis
- Aggravation of lung diseases, such as asthma and bronchitis
- Aggravation of heart diseases, such as congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease
- Respiratory symptoms including coughing, phlegm, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath
- Increased susceptibility to respiratory infections
How can you find the PM2.5 concentrations in your area?
What can you do to reduce your exposure to PM2.5? (A more comprehensive list can be found on EPA’s website)
- Avoid outdoor activity during high PM2.5 days
- Don’t idle your vehicle
- Conserve electricity
- Reduce the number of trips you take in your car
- Set your thermostat a little higher in the summer and lower in winter
- Participate in local energy conservation programs
- Look for the ENERGY STAR label when buying home or office equipment
- Keep car, boat and other engines properly tuned, and avoid engines that smoke
- Car pool, use public transportation, bike or walk when possible
- Mulch or compost leaves and yard waste instead of burning them