KXAN Earth Week: How air quality is monitored and what you can do to reduce ozone levels

Weather Blog

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Air may be invisible, but it’s not always clear how clean the air you’re breathing is.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) monitors air quality statewide with more than 200 monitoring stations — more than double the amount required by federal law.

Pollutants, measured in parts per billion, are presented in a user-friendly air quality index scale.
Anything more than 100 is considered unhealthy.

Various particulates in the atmosphere can cause health issues like difficulty breathing.

One of the more prevalent, especially in the hotter months, is ozone.

Ozone is a highly reactive gas that, in the lower levels of the atmosphere, is created when heat and sunlight react with certain pollutants, like gasoline components, creating a haze or smog effect.

Lucia Athens, Austin’s Chief Sustainability Officer, explains how you can reduce ozone development as we head into the hotter months.

“Turn off your car. And turn it back on again when you’re able to move forward. We ask people to make sure that if you have to fuel up, if you have a regular vehicle that runs on gasoline, try not to fill up in the hot parts of the day. Also drive smart, try to drive efficiently, make sure your tires are inflated — all those things,” said Athens.

When the weather conditions could lead to high ozone levels, the TCEQ will issue an “ozone action day” in order to emphasize the need for you to take these steps to reduce ozone development. The First Warning Weather team will pass those alerts on to you on KXAN and on KXAN.com.

In Austin, ozone season runs from April 1 through October 31. During that time, typically five to 10 days become ozone action days.

Reducing car use is the simplest way to reduce ozone levels.

You can explore transportation alternatives in Austin using the Get There ATX website to find different ways to get where you need, click here to go to the website.

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