New Report: Texas Air Still Failing

Ozone, particle pollution levels climb across Texas cities

This year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association finds that Texas’s rankings were poorer for the most harmful and widespread types of air pollution: particle pollution and ozone. While there were some bright spots with cities in the Rio Grande Valley as well as Corpus Christi seeing zero unhealthy ozone days, Houston and Dallas metro areas continue to have unhealthy levels of pollution across all metrics. See the full report at Lung.org/sota.

“Tracking these rates is important because unhealthy air impacts all Texans, especially children, those over 65, people with COPD, lung cancer or cardiovascular disease and people of color. Healthy people can also experience shortness of breath and coughing where air pollutants are high. As Texans spend more time outdoors, these pollution levels put them at increasing levels of risk – more must be done to protect our health,” said Charlie Gagen, Director of Advocacy for the Lung Association. 

Ozone Pollution in Texas
Compared to the 2020 report, cities including Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and El Paso experienced an increase in unhealthy days of high ozone, while cities in the Rio Grande Valley including McAllen, Harlingen and Brownsville saw some of the cleanest air for ozone pollution in the country in this report. Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and El Paso not only remained on the list of 25 most polluted cities, but also saw their rankings increase.

Particle Pollution in Texas
“State of the Air” 2021 found that year-round particle pollution levels in Texas were slightly higher than in last year’s report. The report also tracked short-term spikes in particle pollution, which can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. The report found that Texas had more days when short-term particle pollution reached unhealthy levels. 

The year’s report found that nationwide, more than 4 in 10 people (135 million) lived with polluted air, placing their health and lives at risk. In Texas pollution placed the health residents at risk, including those who are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, such as older adults, children and people with a lung disease. The report also shows that people of color were 61% more likely to live in a county with unhealthy air than white people, and three times more likely to live in a county that failed all three air quality grades. The report also finds that climate change made air quality worse and harder to clean up.

The Lung Association’s annual air quality “report card” tracks and grades Americans’ exposure to unhealthful levels of particle pollution (also known as soot) and ozone (smog) over a three-year period – this year’s report covers 2017-2019. The report analyzes particle pollution in two ways: average annual levels and short-term spikes. Both ozone and particle pollution can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and cardiovascular damage and are linked to developmental and reproductive harm. Particle pollution can also cause lung cancer.

Learn more about “State of the Air” at Lung.org/sota and sign the petition for the Biden Administration to promote clean air, a safe climate and environmental justice. 

For more information, contact:

James A. Martinez
(312) 445-2501
[email protected]

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