Austin’s air quality is gradually getting worse


Summer is right around the corner, which means we could see more Ozone Action Days.

Too much ozone can make it hard to breathe and cause people to cough or get a scratchy throat. Air pollution is not just a problem for Austin during the summer months. 

The National Ambient Air Quality standard says a measure of ozone above 76 parts per billion is too high. More than 1.2 million adults in Texas have asthma and are subject to higher health risks from breathing polluted air. 

The city of Austin is creeping closer to exceeding that standard. The current average for Austin ranges anywhere between 63 and 65 parts per billion, depending on what area of the city you live in. 

Vehicles are the main drivers for Austin’s air quality going downhill. 

“Our major local contribution to poor air quality is our tailpipe emissions, that is our largest contributor,” says Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. 

As Austin grows, more construction is another reason air quality has been getting worse.

Capital Metro helps get people out of their cars by offering free rides on Ozone Action Days. CapMetro CEO Randy Clarke says this year they’re trying something new: an opportunity to ride free in June.

“A whole week for free for our customers and for new people to try the service. Instead of having one day,” says Clarke.

Clarke says they may continue to offer complimentary rides for Ozone Action Days in the future, but they’re also trying to get people out of traffic every day.  

“Instead of one day, another a month later and the confusion behind it we want to emphasize that every day can be an earth day,” Clarke said.

Since Austin’s air quality has been on a gradual decline, Eckhardt says now is the time to take action. 

“It’s really important for us to look at ways to make healthier choices for how we move through our sensitive environment and when we move through our sensitive environment.”.

To help promote and encourage protecting our environment we have Air Quality Awareness Week, which is currently underway. During the awareness week, the city of Round Rock is offering free transit service.

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