ALA Report: Air Quality Mixed in Texas, throughout USA

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source: eoearth.org

The American Lung Association (ALA) recently released the 2015 State of the Air report. Unfortunately, they found the quality of air remains mixed throughout Texas and the United States.

Created using data reported as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) national monitoring network, the report analyzes particle and ozone pollution, two of the most ubiquitous pollutants in the country. Though numerous cities across the country saw an improvement in air quality, conditions in other cities declined.

That dichotomy was found in Texas. The Houston-Woodland region and Dallas-Fort Worth ranked sixth and seventh, respectively, on the list of cities with the highest levels of smog-causing ozone pollution. The Houston-Woodlands region was also on the list of top cities with most year-round particle pollution. There was some good news for Texas too, though – McAllen-Edenburg and Brownsville-Harlingen-Raymondville were two of just thirteen cities nationwide that were found to be both the cleanest cities for ozone and short term particle pollution.

Elsewhere in the United States, the American East States saw a reduction in year-round particle pollution due to cleaner fuel for diesel convoys and power plants. But the American West saw an increase in particle pollution most likely due to climate change-related impacts such as droughts and forest fires.

On the whole, the nation has taken strides toward healthier air since the Clean Air Act was implemented in 1970. Six of the most common pollutants have steadily decreased for the past 30 years while the economy and population have risen. Even with these improvements, there is still much to be done, especially as almost 44 percent of people in the nation live in an area where the concentrations of air pollution are known to lead to adverse health outcomes.

Key National Findings

  • More than four out of ten people live in communities with unhealthy air.
  • Since 1970, the air has gotten cleaner while the population, the economy, energy use and miles driven increased greatly.
  • Thirteen of the 25 most ozone-polluted cities had fewer high ozone days on average in 2011-2013 compared with 2010-2012, including Houston.

 

Key Texas Findings

  • The Houston-Woodland region and Dallas-Fort Worth ranked sixth and seventh, respectively, on the list of cities with the highest levels of smog-causing ozone pollution. Texas contains five of the 25 most ozone-polluted counties in the nation.
  • McAllen-Edinburg and Brownsville-Harlingen- Raymondville were ranked among the best cities for cleanest ozone and short term particle pollution.
  • 16 counties in Texas received a grade of “F” on the ozone level:

Bexar

Brazoria

Collin

Dallas

Denton

Ellis

Galveston

Gregg

Harris

Hood

Jefferson

Johnson

Montgomery

Parker

Rockwall

Tarrant

What happens now?

Too many Texas cities are among the most polluted in America. In order to create progress and change, Texas leaders need to continue pushing strong environmental legislation forward and enforce clean air standards. In order to keep Texans healthy, these leaders need to fight for clean air legislation, not against it. On the federal and state level, environmental measures like the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants and the proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone need to be supported. The American Lung Association provides some helpful ideas on what government policy and action should be taken for cleaner air:

Individuals can also make a difference:

  • Reach out to Congress and the White House, telling them to support strong standards for carbon pollution and ozone.
  • Share your own personal story on why you want healthier, cleaner air at Fightingforair.org to remind decision makers what is at stake.
  • Get involved in your own community and support efforts to clean up air pollution in our area. To find your local air pollution control agency, go to 4cleanair.org.
  • Drive less to reduce vehicle emissions which are a large source of air pollution. Try walking, carpooling or riding a bus.
  • Use less electricity by unplugging appliances you are not using and switching to energy efficient
  • Don’t burn wood or trash as this creates high amounts of particle pollution in the country. Look into switching to natural gas burning stoves, compost waste and encourage your city to ban outdoor burning of yard waste.
  • Advocate for clean school buses at your local school. By retrofitting old buses with filters and new equipment to reduce emissions, air pollution can be lowered.

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