HOUSTON - Houston is almost through the sweltering heat and along with cooler weather - would you believe, cleaner air?
If you live in the greater Houston area, the air you breathe may be dangerous. The American Lung Association reported Houston has the 15th highest ozone levels in the country. But it’s not all bad news, the area has actually improved our air quality over time.
“You can kind of think of ozone as a sunburn in your lungs. It causes irritation to your cells, it causes damage to the cells,” said Adrian Shelley, the Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston. From Galveston all the way up to Montgomery County, the ozone levels in the air we breathe exceed the federal standard. Even so, Houston air quality has improved when compared to the statistics reported over the last few decades.
In the 80’ sand 90’s, Houston had the worst air quality in the country, and was ranked 1st. In 2015, depending on the agency reporting the stats, the city was ranked either 6th or 7th.
This year, the American Lung Association reported Houston and the Woodlands at 15th.
Air Alliance of Houston said Houston is doing better than our neighbors to the north.
“We are the energy capitol of the world. We’ve got one of the largest concentrations of petrochemical facilities anywhere here in Houston. Immense pollution challenges, but we have less ozone pollution in Houston now, then Dallas does,” said Shelley.
At one point, the Bayou City also had more than 200 days of dangerous ozone levels. In 2016, only 15-20 days have been reported. Although, far much fewer, those days are still a cause for concern.
“Days in which we are gonna see a measurable increase in asthma attacks requiring hospitalization. We are going to see a measurable increase in cardiac arrests on those high ozone days,” said Shelley.
The reduced number of diesel engines and a cleaner local petrochemical industry have helped along the way, according to experts.
“There is still room to cut pollution. There are old facilities that need new equipment. There are habitual violators that need to start receiving fines,” said Shelley.
So what can you do to help reduce ozone? Last year, the City of Houston passed an ordinance requiring trucks to reduce idling their engines. In fact, a citizen that witnesses an 18 wheeler or a school bus, for example, idling longer than 15 minutes can call 311 to report the driver.