By: Sarah Holland, Director, CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas
Ozone season is now upon us, which means citizens and cities need to be aware of daily ozone levels and how they impact daily life. Ozone, also known as smog, is a harmful air pollutant that is associated with adverse health effects, including asthma attacks, decreased lung function and premature death. Children, older Americans, and those with preexisting respiratory conditions are especially at risk. Poor air quality not only affects public health, but is bad for the Texas economy as well. Currently our region is on the cusp of nonattainment, meaning several cities in Texas do not meet federal health-based air quality standards. Designation could mean a requirement for new emission reduction control measures. In addition, a non-attainment designation has several consequences, including diminished attractiveness for talent recruitment, new businesses, and families. Read More
This post, written by Adrian Shelley, Air Alliance Houston executive director, originally appeared on airCurrent News.
Spring is coming to Houston, and with it the start of ozone season. You probably haven’t thought about ozone yet this year, and with all the cold weather we’ve had, you could be forgiven. But Houston’s ozone season officially began on March 1, and it may be time to start thinking about this pernicious air pollutant once again.
First we should remember that 2015’s ozone season begins amid a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency to lower the federal ozone pollution standard. Comments on that proposal were due this week. Air Alliance Houston, with help from students at the University of Houston Law Center, submitted comments calling for a standard as low as 60 parts per billion. The best science of the day indicates that such a low standard is needed to protect public health.
Meanwhile our Governor Greg Abbot, along with Governors from ten other states, ignored public health needs and asked the EPA not to update the ozone standard again, ever. Governor Abbot et. al. claim that the new ozone standard will cost billions of dollars and 1.4 million jobs nationwide. This claim ignores a recent EPA study of the results of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020, which estimates that benefits from implementing the Act exceed costs by a factor of more than 30 to 1.
So there are some hard questions about what the ozone standard will be in the future. But putting those aside for right now, what do you need to know for 2015’s ozone season? Read More
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. Read More
Smog over Dallas Skyline Source: WikiCommons/Turn685
This Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will hold hearings across the country on the proposed updates to our national smog (ground-level ozone) standards from their current level of 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 65 to 70 ppb. Exacerbated by the combustion of fossil-fuel power plants and car exhaust, ground-level ozone is the single most widespread air pollutant in the United States and is linked to severe respiratory health outcomes. For an industrious and populous state like Texas, ozone poses a great threat to public health. In Texas, the hearing will take place from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. local time at Arlington City Hall.
Does the proposal go far enough?
While EDF supports EPA’s proposal to strengthen these critical health protections, we believe that going even further, to 60 ppb, would provide the strongest protections for Americans and would be in line with what leading medical associations like the American Lung Association recommend. Read More
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled a proposal to update our national air quality standards for ground-level ozone, more commonly known as smog, from the current 75 parts per billion level to 65 to 70 parts per billion. Smog is a dangerous air pollutant linked to asthma attacks and other serious heart and lung diseases. That’s why EPA is also seeking comments on establishing a health standard of 60 parts per billion, a level that would provide the strongest public health protections for Americans according to scientific record. But despite the overwhelming scientific evidence of the health benefits of a more protective ozone standard, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), publicly opposes it.
Sixty to 70 parts per billion is the health-based range recommended by the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, an independent panel of the nation’s leading scientists. The panel of scientists formed its recommendation based on an examination of bedrock scientific evidence and the requirement under the law to protect those most vulnerable.
In deconstructing TCEQ’s position on ozone, one can focus on a few key elements that stray from the mainstay of accepted public health principles:
Flaring in Eagle Ford Shale
The Texas Tribune recently published a piece debunking some of the science behind the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) position on the national health standard for ozone – one of the most ubiquitous and harmful air pollutants on the planet. As outlined in the agency’s latest newsletter, TCEQ’s Director of Toxicology, Mike Honeycutt, questions the benefits of a stronger standard, even though public health experts across the country have been calling for a more protective standard for years. What’s more disappointing than the agency’s apparent anti-health position, however, is the lack of attention to other legitimate air pollution issues in Texas.
It would seem that the agency must have a surplus of staff, as well as unlimited resources to establish such an aggressive position on a standard that hasn’t been proposed yet. The reality is that there are so many more important things that the agency could and should be doing to serve and protect Texas citizens from real air pollution threats, including: Read More