It’s summer time in Houston and besides staggering heat and humidity, that also means high probability for high ozone levels.
That means the air will be unhealthy for either members of sensitive groups or for everyone.
Andrea Morrow is with the TCEQ.
“If you have hot stagnant days and you have emissions of volatile organic compounds, then you’re likely to have more problems with ozone.”
If it’s windy or rainy, levels are more likely to be lower. Ground-level ozone, also called “smog,” is created by chemical reactions involving nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight. These air pollutants are emitted from factories, cars and gasoline vapors.
Morrow says what the individual Houstonian can do to reduce ozone levels is drive less and avoid drive-thrus or other situations where your car is idle.
“Take public transportation. Plan your trips so you don’t drive as much. You’ll want to limit mowing with gas-powered mowers until after 6 p.m. or early in the morning, and the same for filling up your gas tank.”
She says those who are sensitive to bad air quality — for example those who have asthma — should stay in air-conditioned places as much as possible.
Adrian Shelly is the executive director of Air Alliance Houston.
He says last summer 30 to 40 days fell into the orange category for ozone in the air. But he says it’s getting better.
“We are fortunate here in Houston that we are working hard to reduce pollution and we are seeing fewer ozone days year to year – certainly fewer than we saw back in the ‘80s when we had something like 200.”
He says the city’s petrochemical industry actually deserves some credit for the reduction in high ozone level days.
“That being said, better is not good. We are not in compliance with federal standards at this point. We are not doing everything we can to adequately protect the health of Houstonians here. And so we need to see the industry here in Houston continue to take those aggressive steps to continue lowering pollution.”
Houstonians can monitor ozone levels for their area at houstoncleanairnetwork.com. The website was developed by professors from the University of Houston last year.