This post was written by Larry Soward, Air Alliance Houston Transition Director.
Houston area residents can now track ozone pollution levels anytime, anywhere with a new groundbreaking Smartphone app created through a partnership between Air Alliance Houston, the American Lung Association Plains-Gulf Region, and the University of Houston Honors College.
This exciting new tool extends the resources already available through the Houston Clean Air Network website – the first real-time ozone website for the Houston region – developed by these three groups through a generous grant from the Houston Endowment. The Houston Clean Air Network website and now the Smartphone app enable citizens of the Houston region to get up-to-the-minute air quality information and take control over their own exposure to ozone, reducing the associated health effects.
The new “Ozone Map” app is available free on iPhone and iPad through the Apple App Store and on Android devices through Google Play.
Although individuals are currently able to check ozone values at monitor locations through various government agencies, that data available is typically about 1.5 hours old. This is important because ozone values can change quickly, and people in sensitive groups need to know actual exposure levels. “Ozone Map” provides a unique visual representation of how the real-time ozone levels are moving throughout the Houston area. Displayed much like a weather radar map, users can see the ozone “cloud” moving across the Houston area, as well as the ozone levels in different parts of the city.
Importantly, “Ozone Map” is presently the only place where users may access up-to-the-minute data at a personal address level. Users can also select from three different maps – standard, satellite or hybrid – and can access information on the health effects of ozone. They can also alter the map’s color scheme to reflect the color codes used by the Environmental Protection Agency, in which green is good and red is unhealthy.
Ozone season in Houston runs from March 1 through November 30, and there are about 30 to 40 days each year when harmful levels of ozone are somewhere in the Houston area. There are even more days when the city is under an air quality alert. The important information available through this new app will allow individuals in sensitive groups to make informed decisions regarding their exposure without giving up the outdoors all day during an ozone watch. It will also allow a wide demographic of citizens to not only receive an accurate ozone reading at their specific location, but also promises to improve the general understanding of the formation and health effects of ozone.
The Houston Clean Air Network website and the exciting new Smartphone app will be a daily tool for the thousands of people in the Houston area who suffer from respiratory disease, as well as a 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, now everyone will be able to similarly check the “Ozone Map” to see current ozone levels and adjust their actions accordingly.