May 1, 2014

Tarrant flunks in annual air quality report

Ozone pollution has long been a major problem in North Texas.

Based on its high number of “orange” and “red” ozone days, Tarrant County received a failing grade for ozone pollution in the American Lung Association’s newly released State of the Air report, which covers the years 2010-12.

“It’s not a secret to people in Tarrant County or the surrounding area that the air pollution problem is ongoing and has bad health effects,” said Susannah Fuchs, environmental health senior director for the American Lung Association’s Plains-Gulf region.

While several of the association’s recommendation to improve air quality were aimed at the Environmental Protection Agency, Fuchs said Dallas-Fort Worth residents can also make commuting decisions designed to reduce pollution.

“One of the biggest ways to reduce ozone pollution is to think about transportation choices,” said Fuchs, who encouraged motorists and their employers to consider car pooling or van pooling, public transportation, telecommuting or making the drive to work in off-peak hours. “Reducing congestion on the roadways can make a big difference in air pollution levels.”

During the three years, Tarrant County had 54 orange days, which means ozone pollution was at levels that are considered unhealthy for sensitive populations, and six red days, when the ozone pollution is unhealthy for everyone.

Overall, the Dallas-Fort Worth region ranked eighth out of 277 metropolitan areas for high ozone days, according to the report.

Because the Environmental Protection Agency designated Dallas-Fort Worth as an ozone nonattainment area in 2011, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is updating its State Implementation Plan to specifically show how it will meet ozone standards, officials said. That revised plan is due to the EPA in July 2015, said Joe Hubbard, a spokesman for the region's EPA office.

Tarrant County received a passing grade for both short-term and year-round particle pollution, according to the report. Particle pollution refers to a mix of very tiny liquid and solid particles that can increase an exposed person’s risk for lung damage, hospitalization for asthma or even premature death, according to the American Lung Association.

Online: www.stateoftheair.org/2014/states/texas/tarrant-48439.html

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