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Energy & Environment

Worst Season for Ozone in Houston? Maybe Right Now

In the past few days, air pollution levels in Houston have been spiking at levels considered unhealthy for the elderly and children and for people with health problems. Research points to a seasonal link to health effects.


Houston does not meet US EPA limits for ozone pollution
Dave Fehling/Houston Public Media
Houston does not meet US EPA limits for ozone pollution.



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When air pollution from cars and industrial plants gets cooked by the sun it forms ozone. Breathing it can cause muscles in your airways to constrict.

Loren Raun knows exactly what that will do some people in Houston.

"We looked at ambulance data, " says Raun, an environmental scientist at both the City of Houston and Rice University.

A few years ago, Raun and and a team of researchers used 911 data and found that even just moderately high ozone for a few days increased the risk of asthma attacks by up to 45 percent. Heart attacks went up four percent even with just a few hours of elevated levels.

"It affects, both, all ages, children pediatrics with asthma and affects the older population with cardiac arrest," Raun tells News 88.7.

Raun said while many of us might think smog is worse in the summer, she says their research found that people got sick from it more when the seasons change.

"If you were to look at the statistics at the ambulance treated asthma attacks for example you will see spikes that occur in the fall and in the spring,” says Raun.

And so far this month, each day has shown elevated ozone in many parts of the Houston region with the highest spikes that exceed new, federal standards occurring on Houston's west side and into Fort Bend County.