Pioneering Ozone Maps Empower Houston Residents

Matthew Tejada, Air Alliance Houston Executive Director

Guest Post By Matthew Tejada, Executive Director at Air Alliance Houston

Today Houston-area residents finally have a tool to help them take control over their own ozone exposure.

Air Alliance Houston, along with the University of Houston and the American Lung Association Plains Gulf Region, proudly launched The Houston Clean Air Network, a groundbreaking website featuring a first: real-time ozone maps.

This type of resource has been a dream of local public health and environmental experts for many years. The only way a person can protect their health from ozone was to totally avoid exposing their lungs to this dangerous pollutant, and now for Houston area residents there’s a resource that allows them to do exactly that.

Although individuals can check ozone values at monitor locations through various government agencies, the data available is not real-time and usually lags by 1.5 hours. This is important because ozone values can change quickly; thus, current data may not reflect actual exposure levels.

The new maps provide a unique visual representation of how the real-time ozone levels are moving throughout the Houston area. Displayed much like a weather radar map, the ozone “cloud” which the site displays animates movement and allows users to understand the temporal and spatial variation of ozone levels in their particular area.

The ozone moves in often surprising ways and sometimes neighborhoods that are close to each other have very different ozone readings. That information can allow sensitive groups to limit their exposure without giving up the outdoors all day during an ozone watch. Examples of how Houston residents could use this information include a runner deciding where to run – in Hermann Park or Terry Hershey Park – or a high school coach deciding whether practice should be held outside on the playing field or inside in the gym. Both decisions can now be made by accessing accurate, up-to-the-minute ozone information.

Ozone is a hazardous pollutant that poses a serious threat to human health and is found in consistently high concentrations in and around Houston. The health impacts that result from exposure to these high concentrations range from mild to severe, and place a burden on Houston’s economy both in productivity losses from adverse health effects and opportunity losses from individuals who choose to take their talents to other parts of the country with better air quality. With the introduction of this tool, individuals may now take control over their own exposure to ozone and reduce the associated health effects.

Sponsored by a three-year grant from the Houston Endowment, this valuable resource promises to change the way Houston-area residents view ozone and their individual exposure.

It is our sincere intention that this new site will benefit the thousands of people in the Houston area on a daily basis who suffer from a respiratory disease, as well as provide an important learning tool for teachers, students, parents, and children to understand how air quality affects their health.

Just as everyone checks the local weather to plan their daily activities, we hope that everyone will similarly check in with the Houston Clean Air Network to see current ozone levels and adjust their actions accordingly.

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