|4||Charles Town, West Virginia|
|7||Depoe Bay, Oregon|
|9||Cedar Rapids, Iowa|
|10||Council Bluffs, Iowa|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
|1||Central Maintenance Complex|
|2||Austin Northwest C3|
|3||University of Texas - Museum of Art|
|4||Walnut Creek Crossing|
|8||University of Texas - Disch-Falk Field|
|9||University of Texas - East Mall|
|10||University of Texas - Memorial Stadium|
(local time)SEE WORLD AQI RANKING
live AQI index
|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Good|| 22 US AQI||PM2.5|
|PM2.5|| 5.3 µg/m³|
|Open your windows to bring clean, fresh air indoors|
|Enjoy outdoor activities|
|Tuesday, Mar 2|
Good 18 US AQI
|Wednesday, Mar 3|
Good 39 US AQI
|Thursday, Mar 4|
Good 30 US AQI
|Friday, Mar 5|
Moderate 51 US AQI
Good 35 US AQI
|Sunday, Mar 7|
Good 47 US AQI
|Monday, Mar 8|
Good 43 US AQI
|Tuesday, Mar 9|
Good 30 US AQI
|Wednesday, Mar 10|
Good 28 US AQI
|Thursday, Mar 11|
Good 22 US AQI
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Austin air quality is relatively clean compared to that of other major cities in Texas. Since at least 2005, Austin’s air quality index (AQI) averaged less than 50 (“good”) annually, indicating that the air poses little to no risk to health.
In 2019, November and December were Austin’s most polluted months, with AQI averages of 52 and 51 (“moderate”) respectively. This differed from previous years, such as in 2016, 2017 and 2018, where the summer months of July and August were the most polluted.
Despite low annual and monthly averages, Austin air quality varies more significantly day to day and hour to hour. From 2016 to 2018, Austin experienced a weighted average of 3.3 unhealthy ozone days and 1.3 unhealthy PM2.5 days.1 On average, 36% of hours were rated an AQI of “moderate,” while 1% was “unhealthy for sensitive groups”.2
The World Health Organization has set an even more stringent standard for PM2.5 than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recommending no more than 10 μg/m3 of annual exposure (compared to the 12 μg/m3 for the US EPA). According to this guideline, Austin experienced seven months of unhealthy air. Moreover, while levels within this PM2.5 target are recommended, the WHO states that no level of exposure has been shown to be free of health impacts.3
Ozone is another pollutant that poses health risks to Austinites. Ozone is a gas pollutant formed in the air when precursor pollutants react in sunlight. Since Austin has a relatively warm climate with abundant sunshine, the city faces challenges in meeting federal standards. Travis County, where Austin is located, has an “F” rating for ozone pollution, with 3.3 unhealthy ozone days. This is just barely above the 3.2 unhealthy days federal limit, and was the closest Travis county has ever been to making an attainment since recording began in 1996.
Follow Austin live air quality data at the top of this page, and use forecast air quality data in Austin to stay one step ahead of air pollution by taking recommended preventative actions.
Overall, PM2.5 and ozone air pollution levels have steadily improved in Austin since 2011. 2018 and 2019, however, were off-trend, experiencing an increase in both pollutant levels.
For PM2.5, Austin experienced an 8.8% increase from 2017 to 2018, and another 13.8% increase from 2018 to 2019. The increase in particulate matter was similarly noted in other Texas cities, such as San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. Common to all Texas cities is a sharp rise in illegal industrial and petroleum activity. A report published by the Environment Texas Research and Policy Center found that Texas oil and gas facilities released 135 million pounds of illegal air pollution in 2018, more than double the amount from the year before in 2017.4
Low fines amounting to roughly one cent per pound of illegal air pollution has likely resulted in increased abuse. The problem is not an issue of legislation, but rather weak enforcement, as only 1/100th of what could be levied is typically being charged.
Another likely contributor to increased air pollution in Austin is the city’s growing population and worsening traffic. Austin is now the 14th most congested city in the United States, with the average resident spending roughly 66 hours annually stuck in traffic.5 This figure has risen steadily since 2009. There is hope, however, of reduced emissions here with the recent surge of electric vehicle ownership. As of February 2020, 10,000 electric vehicles have been registered in Austin, representing an average annual increase of 39% over the past five years.6 An increase in electric vehicles is likely to significantly reduce Austin AQI, as transportation remains the largest contributor to the city’s air quality.
2020 may see reduced air pollution levels, particularly owing to fewer vehicles on the road. During the coronavirus pandemic, Austin air quality improved the most out of all Texas cities, with an ozone reduction of 24% from March 11 to April 13, and 16% from March 11 to April 30.7 These improvements highlight what Austin’s air quality could look like if vehicular emissions were reduced either by fewer cars on the road or a greater share of electric/hybrid vehicles. Experts warn, however, that these reductions are only temporary. Long-term improvements must be created by reducing transportation emissions assuming normal activity, supporting clean and renewable energy, and increasing regulation for industrial polluters.
Transportation and industry represent the largest contributing sources of air pollution in Austin.
While an increase in vehicles has contributed to worsening congestions throughout the city, the surge of electric vehicle ownership spotlights an opportunity for reduced emissions in the future.
Texas’s well-known oil and gas industry is another significant contributor, as PM2.5 and ozone pollution can travel far distances, even from refineries far outside the city limits.
Environmentalists and public health advocates have concerns that regulatory rollbacks within this industry by the Trump administration could exacerbate this problem by undermining previously established standards.8 In addition, during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TECQ) relaxed enforcement of EPA requirements for leak detection and repairs and allowed power plant operators to regulate themselves, citing health concerns for traveling agents.9 Noting that this industry already released 135 million pounds of illegal air pollution in 2018, many criticize this decision as opening the door for more air pollution in Austin.
Sandstorms represent a rare though not uncommon pollution event in Austin, which can occur when trade winds carry dust from the Sahara 5,000 miles over the Atlantic to Central Texas.10 This last occurred in June of 2020, causing air quality levels to rise to “unhealthy” levels for several days. These weather events are more likely to occur in the spring and summer.
Austin AQI varies across the city, as hyperlocal emission sources can have significant effects on an area’s air quality. Use the Austin air pollution map to understand the impact of emission sources near and far as they move with wind.
+ Article Resources
 American Lung Association. (2019). State of the air – 2019.
 Capital Area Council of Governments. (2020). Central Texas air pollution levels compared to national standards.
 World Health Organization. (2020). Air quality guidelines – global update 2005.
 Pabst E. (2020). Illegal air pollution in Texas: Air pollution from startups, shutdowns, malfunctions and maintenance at industrial facilities in Texas in 2018.
 Hall K. (2019, August 22). Austin traffic worsens, now ranking 14th most congested city in nation.
 Newberry B. (2020, February 1). Electric vehicles surge in Austin as more models expected to go on market.
 Watkins K. (2020, May 20). Texas’ air quality improved during the stay-at-home order. Here’s why it probably won’t last.
 Buchele M. (2020, April 20). Austin's air quality is getting worse, American Lung Association says.
 Price A. (2020, April 6). TCEQ loosens enforcement amid COVID-19.
 Ruiz M. (2020, June 26). Saharan dust still gives hazy conditions Sunday, but air quality in Austin has improved.
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