State Claims Air Quality Victory – No Matter How Short-lived!

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued a press release this week announcing that Houston is in attainment for fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, extremely small pollution particles that easily enter the lungs. While the release gave a “good news” story about Houston area industries working together to solve the related environmental and public health issues, it didn’t mention that in April, EPA released its first draft policy assessment on PM2.5 recommending consideration of even stronger standards. These stronger standards will most certainly put Houston out of attainment once again.

Why is EPA considering changes to the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for PM2.5?

Mounting scientific evidence warns of the health threats derived from both long- and short-term exposures to these fine particles floating in the air.

PM2.5 exposure is known to result in a variety of very serious health problems, including:

  • Pre-mature mortality
  • Increased risk of hospital and emergency room visits for those with heart or lung diseases
  • Development of lung diseases like chronic bronchitis
  • Aggravation of lung diseases, such as asthma and bronchitis
  • Aggravation of heart diseases, such as congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease
  • Respiratory symptoms including coughing, phlegm, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Increased susceptibility to respiratory infections

How can you find the PM2.5 concentrations in your area?

The TCEQ maintains air monitors across the region that measure PM2.5 concentrations. You can track current PM2.5 concentrations by subscribing to updates from TCEQ, or by checking TCEQ’s website.

What can you do to reduce your exposure to PM2.5? (A more comprehensive list can be found on EPA’s website)


  • Avoid outdoor activity during high PM2.5 days
  • Don’t idle your vehicle
  • Conserve electricity
  • Reduce the number of trips you take in your car
  • Set your thermostat a little higher in the summer and lower in winter
  • Participate in local energy conservation programs
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR label when buying home or office equipment
  • Keep car, boat and other engines properly tuned, and avoid engines that smoke
  • Car pool, use public transportation, bike or walk when possible
  • Mulch or compost leaves and yard waste instead of burning them
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One Comment

  1. Elena Craft, PhD Elena Craft
    Posted May 26, 2010 at 10:50 AM | Permalink

    Hi –
    We recommend that people install compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) for a number of reasons:

    -CFLs use about one-fourth the energy of regular bulbs. For example, a 13-15 watt CFL produces about the same light output as a 60 watt incandescent bulb
    -CFLs also last up to 10 times as long as regular bulbs, which mean fewer replacements. CFLs don’t get as hot as regular bulbs, so they help keep homes cooler
    -CFLs reduce emissions from power plants by consuming less electricity

    According to EPA, if every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of more than 800,000 cars annually!!