Houston Air Quality Improved, Finds 2016 ‘State of the Air’ Report
Despite continued improvement in air quality, 166 million Americans at risk from health effects of unhealthy air, according to new report from the American Lung Association
Editor's note: Trend Charts and rankings for metropolitan areas and county grades are available at stateoftheair.org
(April 20, 2016) -
HOUSTON – The American Lung Association’s 2016 “State of the Air” report found Houston ranked 15th most polluted city. Compared to the 2015 report, Houston has cut ozone significantly. This is in keeping with a trend seen across the nation of lower ozone pollution levels.
“The 2016 ‘State of the Air’ report finds unhealthful levels of ozone in Houston, putting our local citizens at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and cardiovascular harm. And, since we have such high levels of year-round particle pollution, our citizens face increased risk for lung cancer,” said Michelle Stoddard, Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Texas - Houston. “Across the nation, the report found continued improvement in air quality, but more than half of the people in the United States live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution.”
Each year the “State of the Air” reports on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution and particle pollution. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: through average annual particle pollution levels and short-term spikes in particle pollution. Both ozone and particle pollution are dangerous to public health and can be lethal. But the trends reported in this year’s report, which covers data collected in 2012-2014, are strikingly different for these pollutants nationwide, and also in Houston.
Ozone Pollution in Houston
Compared to the 2015 report (2011-2013), Houston experienced fewer unhealthy days of high ozone in this year’s report, In fact, Houston reported its fewest unhealthy ozone days ever, although still too many more than are safe.
“Ozone is harmful to public health and especially children, older adults and those with asthma and other lung diseases,” said Stoddard. “When older adults or children with asthma breathe ozone-polluted air, too often they end up in the doctor’s office, the hospital or the emergency room.”
Nationwide, ozone pollution has decreased because the nation has cleaned up major sources of the emissions that create ozone, especially coal-fired power plants and vehicles. However, according to research, climate change causes warmer temperatures, which makes ozone harder to clean up.
Particle Pollution in Houston
The 2016 report also found year-round particle pollution (soot) levels in 2012-2014 significantly lower] than the 2015 report. Nationwide, the best progress in this year’s report came in reducing year-round levels of particle pollution. In fact, Houston along with 15 other cities reached their lowest levels ever, and three others improving over the period covered by the 2015 report.
“Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from coal-fired power plants, diesel emissions, wildfires and wood-burning devices. These particles are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and can even be lethal,” said Stoddard. “Year-round particle pollution levels have dropped thanks to the cleanup of coal-fired power plants and the retirement of old, dirty diesel engines.”
The 2016 report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, as these can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. According to the 2016 report, Houston has more days when short-term particle pollution has reached unhealthy levels in 2012-2014. This is in keeping with a trend seen across the nation of short-term spikes in particle pollution.
Increased heat, changes in weather patterns, drought and wildfires are all related to climate change, which has contributed to the extraordinarily high numbers of days with unhealthy particle pollution in some cities, including Houston.
Learn more about Houston rankings, as well as air quality across Texas and the nation in the 2016 “State of the Air” report at stateoftheair.org. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health and healthy air, contact the American Lung Association in Texas at [email protected] or 713-629-5864.
About the American Lung Association in Texas
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit the newly redesigned website: Lung.org.