Ozone Season in Texas Here Again

Source: flickr/Durant Weston

Source: flickr/Durant Weston

Spring time is once again punctuated by the start of the ozone season. March 1st began the ozone season for Houston and Dallas, while April 1st marks the season for San Antonio, Austin and Corpus Christi. The dangers of ozone remind us to take precaution during this time of year and call attention to the importance of clean air.

What is the harm?

Ozone is created when a combination of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react to heat and sunlight. And the combination of rising Texas temperatures, sunlight, vehicles, industrial activity, and low winds create the ideal situation for unhealthy concentrations of ground-level ozone.

Ground-level ozone—better known as smog—contributes to a variety of adverse health outcomes, including respiratory issues, increased risk for asthmatic attacks, long term lung damage, cardiovascular effects, and premature mortalities. The most susceptible groups are young children and elderly adults. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final 2014 health assessment, Health Risk and Exposure Assessment for Ozone, confirmed the causal relationship of ozone to harmful respiratory health.

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How is Texas doing?

In 2014, Houston exceeded EPA’s 8 hour ozone standard, a health based metric for ozone, 14 times. Dallas exceeded the limit a total of 12 days followed by San Antonio with three.

New Proposed Standards

In November 2014, EPA submitted a proposal to strengthen the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone to improve public health and environmental protection. After extensive scientific research on the effects of ozone, EPA proposed to strengthen the ozone standard from 75 ppb to 65-70 ppb.

With a standard of 65-70 ppb, the estimated public health benefits are:

  • $6.4 to $13 billion for a 70 ppb standard
  • $19 to $38 billion for a 65 ppb standard

By 2025, the reduction of ozone pollution nationwide (excluding California) would avoid:

  • 710 to 4,300 premature deaths
  • 320,000 to 960,000 asthma attacks among children
  • 330, 000 to 1 million days of missed school
  • 65,000 to 180,000 days of missed work
  • 1,400 to 4,300 asthma related emergency room visits

Support for Better Health Protections from Smog

More than half a million Americans from across the country, including more than 125,000 members and activists from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), sent messages to EPA urging agency officials to strengthen the clean air standards that protect us from smog. It is clear that the public supports cleaner, healthier air.

A final rule on the proposed standards is expected from EPA by October 1, 2015.

How You Can Help in Central Texas

To kick start ozone season in Central Texas, CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas is hosting a charity golf tournament on March 30th. Tee Off for Clean Air will help raise awareness about ozone season and facilitate partnerships around the region to secure clean air commitments. We look forward to improved air quality and healthier lives in Central Texas!

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