AUSTIN (KXAN) — May 1 marks the beginning of National Air Quality Awareness Week, a collaborative effort between federal, state and local agencies to promote the importance of clean air.

Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency is required to review and regulate specific pollutants in outdoor air, pollutants that are known to be harmful to humans and the environment. These pollution standards are known as the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

Meteorologist Kristen Currie spoke with Amanda Mortl with the City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability to discuss Central Texas’ air quality and our problem pollutants.

Below is a transcript of their discussion. Edits have been made for clarity.

Kristen Currie, KXAN News: Air quality is part of our everyday life. And to talk more about it today is Amanda Mortl with the Office of Sustainability with the City of Austin. Amanda, air quality in Central Texas — what are some of the things that we need to be looking for?

Amanda Mortl, City of Austin: I’m very glad to say that we generally do have clean air, but if you are going to see an air quality alert, you will most likely see them for ozone and particulate matter or dust. Our issues are similar to that of other cities — we drive our cars and we’re using electricity that might be from burning of fossil fuels. So we have the same struggles. But we are lucky to say that as far as big cities are concerned, we do have very relatively clean air.

Currie: And as far as ozone goes, that seems to be the one that pops up more often than not for us when it comes to those levels that might be concerning. Is there a certain time of year or a certain season that we need to be very cautious of that?

Mortl: That season is March through November. Part of ozone creation is assisted by the sun, and since we have a lot of extra sun here, that might be one reason why that season tends to be a bit extended.

Currie: And you mentioned dust?

Mortle: Yeah, I’m calling it particulate matter. There are just so many different kinds of small particles in the air. And the smaller they are, the more damage and the easier it is to get into your lungs. On those dusty days, we want to change the time of day we’re doing construction activities and take extra precautions. At home, we can change our filters and stay inside. Less vigorous exercise outside on those days can also help.

If you are concerned about air quality, especially if you have sensitive lungs, you’re going to want to check the air quality forecast every day. You can check that at And as far as everyday things, we can always use sustainable modes of transportation — walking, biking, using public transit. We can invest in electric cars and electric landscape equipment that will reduce tailpipe emissions. And, of course, conserving electricity and our energy at home will also reduce emissions.