In DFW, the long, hot summer is likely to be made worse by smog
Campaigners and experts are sounding the alarm on what reported poor air quality in Dallas-Fort Worth in mid-June means for the summer, as the hottest months on average are to come .
Since heat is a key factor in the formation of ground-level ozone, a gas that can trigger lung and heart problems, Melanie Sattler, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington, said residents of DFW could expect tough July and August, which are typically the hottest months of the year.
âIf the temperatures are below 85 degrees Fahrenheit, then we are not forming significant ozone,â Sattler said, referring to the smog that occurs in the summer. “The higher the temperature above 85 degrees, the more likely you are to form high levels of ozone.”
According to the North Central Texas Council of Governments, transportation contributes the largest share of nitrogen oxides emissions in DFWs. Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds; that come from cleaning products, adhesives and other materials; together with sunlight form ground-level ozone.
This gas poses a greater threat to some people.
âWhen we have days of high pollution or ozone alerts, it mostly affects children and people aged 65 and over, as well as those with certain pre-existing conditions and illnesses like asthma; emphysema; COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; and some heart disease, âsaid Jessica Rangel, senior vice president of clinical innovation at the Health Science Center at the University of North Texas. “And so what happens is when they come out in those environments, it’s very taxing on the body.”
Rangel said vulnerable residents may experience fatigue and allergic-type symptoms when exposed to ground-level ozone, and that they should avoid going outdoors on high-alert days if they can.
Jim Schermbeck, director of Downwinders at Risk, an air quality advocacy group, said Downwinders had lost confidence in the ability of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to monitor air pollution from power plants in concrete and other sources.
“We have been pushing for the EPA to take back its responsibility from the state to develop these clean air plans because 30 years of failure proves the state is not quite up to the task. “said Schermbeck. “We call on the EPA to take on this responsibility now.”
He was referring to the three decades since Congress amended the Clean Air Act, a federal law limiting air pollution. The EPA reports that DFW is one of a long list of regions whose eight-hour ozone levels do not meet national ambient air quality standards.
TCEQ did not respond to the comments, but directed the Dallas Morning News to the agency’s report on the eight-hour ozone level decline in DFW and other metropolitan areas since the 1990s.
The agency runs a program that offers grants to residents, businesses and local governments in an attempt to reduce air pollution from vehicles and equipment.
Chrissy Mann, Austin resident and lead representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, and Schermbeck said coal-fired power plants south and east of Dallas are also a concern, as the wind can carry the pollution hundreds of kilometers from its source, according to the EPA. .
Schermbeck and Mann said some people were unable to avoid the impacts of air pollution on days with high levels of ozone and other pollutants.
âPeople who work outside in the heat, they’re going to be more at risk for this kind of pollution,â Mann said. “It has a lot of disparate impacts on the people who are perhaps the least able to do anything about pollution.”
Sattler said residents should try to reduce their emissions on Ozone Action Days, when weather conditions make high ozone levels more likely.
âThe two factors that lead to high ozone levels are emissions and the atmospheric side of things – weather. And we can’t control the weather, âSattler said. “What we can control are the emissions.”
Tips for dealing with smog
- Consult the air quality forecasts
- Avoid outdoor activities during the day
- Avoid exercise near high traffic areas
(Sources: Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and New Jersey Department of Health, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality)