Air quality in Texas

Air quality index (AQI) and PM2.5 air pollution in Texas

LAST UPDATE (local time)

LIVE AQI CITY RANKING

Real-time Texas
Most polluted city ranking

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#cityUS AQI
1 Gilmer

85

2 Terrell

80

3 Hallsville

78

4 Channelview

74

5 Leonard

74

6 Southlake

73

7 Kingwood Area

72

8 Atascocita

71

9 La Porte

71

10 McAllen

71

(local time)

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LIVE AQI CITY RANKING

Real-time Texas
Cleanest city ranking

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#cityUS AQI
1 San Leon

0

2 Galveston

1

3 Harlingen

1

4 Italy

2

5 Corinth

4

6 Baytown

9

7 Nederland

9

8 Rollingwood

11

9 El Paso

12

10 West Lake Hills

15

(local time)

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How to best protect from air pollution?

Reduce your air pollution exposure in Texas

Where is Texas situated in the USA?

Texas is a state in the South Central region of the United States. Texas shares borders with the states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the south and southwest, and has a coastline on the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast.

In 2020, the total estimated population was almost 30 million people, which puts it as the second-largest U.S. state by both area (after Alaska) and population (after California).

Is there a strategy that can improve air quality in Texas?

According to a study carried out in El Paso, it was determined that air particles, gas fumes produced by motor vehicles and industrial air pollutants, had reached a geometric mean of 125 µg/m³ in all sites sampled during the 30-day period. The presence of carbon monoxide was measured constantly during the course of the study and it was discovered that its content in the environment ranged between 0 and 18 ppm. Other contaminants such as nitrogen dioxide and ozone were also measured.

In the fight against air pollution, the State of Texas has already passed laws and imposed standards for certain contaminants.

Wind power is becoming more widespread and efficient. Today it accounts for 17 per cent of Texas’ electric grid capacity. Seemingly limitless supplies of natural gas have also been discovered in the Permian Basin underneath West Texas and New Mexico, further eroding coal’s market position.

Does the air quality in Texas differ from district to district?

In 2019, industrial facilities in Houston, Texas emitted more than 23 million pounds of air pollutant over and above the permitted limits. Overall, companies have discharged more than 170 million pounds of unauthorised toxins into the air during 2019.

The report looked at instances in which facilities emitted more than what's permitted under their allowance. These excess emissions can occur from things like equipment malfunctions, maintenance work, or during start-ups and shutdowns of facilities, as such, companies are required to report these emissions to state regulators.

It was found that on every single day in 2019, an industrial facility somewhere in Texas illegally polluted the air. The researchers found that companies only face financial penalties for these excess emissions about 3 per cent of the time, due to an "affirmative defence" policy that exempts polluters from paying penalties if they meet certain criteria.

The report looked at unauthorised emissions of chemicals such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, benzene and butadiene. These different chemicals irritate the respiratory system and exacerbate asthma, and in some circumstances can cause cancer.

What are the sources of air pollution in Texas?

Texas is known for its blue skies and bright summer days. However, hot weather and pollutants from cars, trucks, and factories can make the air dirty and unhealthy, especially for Texans who are sensitive to air pollution. The two main things that can make the air unhealthy are ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10).

Approximately 70 per cent of the smog problem in the area is caused by vehicles and other mobile sources with internal combustion engines, including trucks, buses, agricultural machinery, construction equipment and garden equipment and lawnmowers that are powered by gasoline.

Ozone is a gas that forms when three oxygen molecules come together. It does very important work in our upper atmosphere protecting the earth from the sun's harmful rays. This ozone blanket is called the ozone layer.

However, when ozone is in our lower atmosphere, where we breathe air, it can be harmful to humans. Particulate matter is a mixture of small particles and water droplets in the air. When present in large quantities, it can mix with ozone and other dangerous pollutants to become polluted smog. This is not healthy for people to breathe, especially if they have asthma or other health conditions that could make them sensitive to air pollution.

Can the quality of air in Texas be improved?

The governments that make up the Metropolitan Environmental Commission have developed a new instrument for environmental management, which will guide public policies on air quality in the Valley of Mexico this decade.

The new Program to Improve Air Quality in the Metropolitan Area of the Valley of Mexico 2011-2020, is a participatory planning document that structurally relates and integrates urban, transport, economic and social variables and processes, with the processes of generating criteria pollutants, toxic and the greenhouse effect.

Air pollution can be reduced by conserving energy, limiting driving by walking, cycling, or using public transportation, as well as turning to more alternative energy sources. By doing these things you could help save lives and reduce a lot of toxicity in the world.

Residents in rural parts of East and Central Texas can breathe a little easier. State data shows that the closure of three coal-burning power plants in late 2017 kept more than 150,000 tons of dangerous, smog-forming air pollutants from entering the atmosphere during the following year.

In January, the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ) released its annual Point Source Emissions Inventory for 2018, an accounting of legal air pollution emitted by coal-burning power plants, refineries, chemical manufacturers, and other polluters. The report showed that Texas polluters emitted 152,000 fewer tons of carbon monoxide, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, and other pollutants in 2018 than in 2017.

The data was analysed and attributes the reductions to the closure of three sites owned by the coal mining company Luminant: Big Brown in Fairfield, southeast of Dallas; Monticello in Mount Pleasant, east of Dallas; and Sandow in Rockdale, east of Austin.

The biggest drop was in sulphur dioxide, which reported emissions of 282,000 tons in 2018 which was a 25 per cent reduction from the previous year. Sulphur dioxide interacts with other chemicals in the atmosphere to form small particles that may penetrate the lungs and in sufficient quantity can contribute to health problems. Children and the elderly are especially susceptible. Carbon monoxide which is an odourless gas that can cause headaches, dizziness, and vomiting, dropped by 15 per cent from the previous year, according to the data. Particulate matter, which can cause asthma, an irregular heartbeat, and difficulty breathing, was reduced by 11 per cent.

As in so many other countries, the decline in the popularity of coal as a source of energy has meant that no enquiries have been made with regards to new installations.

An introduction to air pollution in Texas.

Almost 30 million people live in the state of Texas and the population is continuing to grow. It is estimated that 4.6 million people will die each year due to air pollution. This may not seem as bad as water pollution but it’s the worst type of pollution due to sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. Texas may not be the most optimal place to live, since there are already so many people residing there, with hundreds of factories and millions of cars seeing use each year. These things are not helping the air quality, being highly damaging and as such the need to reduce these factors becomes of even greater importance.

How is the air pollution level in Texas measured?

To measure the quality of the air in houses or interior spaces there are different devices. These increasingly sophisticated devices carry out continuous, real-time monitoring. They also alert when the house should be ventilated:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) sensors: measure carbon dioxide in parts per million (ppm) through infrared.
  • VOC concentration sensors: measure Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), which are found in most living elements and can be converted to vapours or gases.
  • PM2.5 sensors: evaluate fine particles in suspension that can cause respiratory problems.
  • Humidity sensors: measure the temperature and humidity in the environment. Indoor humidity is very important to control air quality.

What are the consequences of breathing in polluted air in Texas?

Particulate matter (PM) is a mixture of small particles and liquid droplets. These particles can be made up of acids, organic chemicals, metal, dust or soil. Particulates are different in several ways including size.

PM10 is sometimes referred to as coarse particles. They consist of particles that are less than or equal to 10 micrometres in diameter. PM2.5 are fine particles and are the smallest particles that are regulated. They consist of particles that are less than or equal to 2.5 micrometres in diameter. By comparison, the average diameter of human hair is 70 micrometres.

Particle size is directly related to its potential for causing health problems. Small particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter can be inhaled deeply into the lungs. Scientific studies have linked exposure to high concentrations of some types of PM with a variety of problems, including:

  • irregular heartbeat;
  • aggravated asthma;
  • decreased lung function;
  • increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing; nonfatal heart attacks; and
  • premature death in people with heart or lung disease.

Scientific evidence indicates that lung damage that is caused by prolonged exposure to lower levels of ozone-polluted air poses the greatest health risk. Averaging ozone levels for eight hours provides a higher level of protection, especially for children and those adults who spend a significant portion of their time working or playing outdoors which is a group that is particularly vulnerable to the effects of ozone.

Which is the most polluted city in Texas?

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