Air Quality Report: Texas Has More Work To Do

Source: American Lung Association

Texas climbed higher among the national “worst ozone” rankings list, but most of the nation continued on a long-term trend toward much healthier air, according to the Annual State of the Air Report released this week from the American Lung Association (ALA).

The report reviewed air pollution data compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for two of the most hazardous types of pollution: ozone and particle pollution.

Key National Findings:

  • More than 131 million people (42 percent of the U.S. population) live in counties that have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution.
  • Los Angeles has cut one-third of its unhealthy ozone days since first the State of the Air report came out in 2000.
  • Eighteen cities had lower year-round levels of particle pollution, including 16 cities with their lowest levels recorded.

Key Texas Findings:

  • Unfortunately Houston-Baytown-Huntsville ranked 7th place among the most ozone-polluted cities in the country, and Dallas-Fort Worth made a huge leap to 8th place nationally from 13th place just two years ago. Harris County also failed with regard to annual particle pollution.
  • Fifteen Texas Counties received a grade of “F” for ozone pollution:
    • Harris County (67 orange level ozone days, 10 red)
    • Dallas County (34 orange level ozone days, 4 red)
    • Bexar County
    • Brazoria County
    • Collin County
    • Denton County
    • Galveston County
    • Gregg County
    • Hood County
    • Jefferson County
    • Johnson County
    • Montgomery County
    • Orange County
    • Rockwall County
    • Tarrant County
    • On a more positive note, Brownsville-Harlingen-Raymondville made two of the “cleanest U.S. cities” list for ozone and short-term particle pollution.
    • To find out if your Texas town is on the most polluted list, visit the ALA site.

As mentioned in a previous Texas Clean Air Matters post, we believe that Texas has the capability to reduce air pollution levels throughout the state. However, there is – as always – much work to be done. Our health depends on it.

What needs to be done (Source: ALA):

What individuals can do:

  • Send a message to EPA. Tell the agency you support stronger standards for ozone and particle pollution to limit how much of those pollutants can be in the air.
  • Drive less. Combine trips, walk, bike, carpool or vanpool, and use buses, subways or other alternatives to driving.
  • Don’t burn wood or trash. Burning firewood and trash are among the largest sources of particles in many parts of the country.
  • Make sure your local school system requires clean school buses, which includes replacing or retrofitting old buses.
  • Get involved. Participate in your community’s review of its air pollution plans and support state and local efforts to clean up air pollution. To find your local air pollution control agency, go to www.4cleanair.org.
  • Use less electricity. Turn out the lights and use energy-efficient appliances.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted August 6, 2013 at 6:49 AM | Permalink

    I wrote a blog on my website addressing the ALA "State of the Air" report. I find their grading system to be very suspect, as it puts cities like San Antonio, with very few "high ozone days" in the same category as large cities like Houston and Los Angeles, with many times more "high ozone days". Brewster County, which includes Big Bend Nation Park, got a “D” from the ALA. Brewster County only has a population of just over nine thousand and no major manufacturing.

    For more information and to read my entire blog on this issue, please go to:
    http://ozoneinformation.blogspot.com/2013/05/poking-holes-in-american-lung.html

  2. Posted August 6, 2013 at 3:25 PM | Permalink

    Thank you for the comment.

    I understand your concern that the American Lung Association (ALA) gives both San Antonio and cities like Los Angeles an ‘F’. When you unpack the rating, you find that ALA assigns a grade based on whether the region is out of attainment with national health based standards, not whether the region is out of attainment, or whether the region is out of attainment with respect to more than one pollutant (for example, LA is out of attainment for ozone and particulate matter). Regardless, when you consider that the region fails to meet the current standard (one the scientific community does not believe is strict enough to protect human health), the current standard isn’t sufficient and the F is warranted.

    Regarding the link between ozone pollution and respiratory ailments such as asthma—the issue is more complicated than meets the eye. It is well known that asthma attacks are more common in winter when cold viruses further weaken the immune system. That doesn’t mean that ozone is not correlated with asthma. Many, many studies have demonstrated the unequivocal relationship between exposure to ozone and health outcomes – not to mention the number of scientists and health organizations that have weighed in on this matter:

    http://blogs.edf.org/texascleanairmatters/files/2013/08/Scientist_Letter_OzoneMay_25_2010.pdf
    and
    http://blogs.edf.org/texascleanairmatters/files/2013/08/Organizational-Sign-on-for-Ozone-NAAQS-3-22-10.pdf

    You mentioned the economic costs of implementing pollution controls – but what about the health care costs? It's important to consider the thousands of dollars spent each time an emergency responder sends an ambulance for a heart attack or an asthma event. It adds up – and we need to do more to address this critical health issue.

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