AAH’s Paige Powell reviews available air quality information resources

Ozone season has officially begun, and all signs suggest that it’s going to be a rough one. Houston has already had more than a dozen Ozone Action Days this year, and the temperatures will undoubtedly continue to rise over the next few months.

If you’re sensitive to ozone pollution (children, the elderly, and people with respiratory conditions like asthma are most susceptible to its effects), hopefully you’ve found the information on the Houston Clean Air website and Ozone Map app helpful. Over the last few years of hosting and maintaining these resources, we’ve come across a number of obstacles and have recently had to take them offline for overhaul.

In their absence, I’ve sought out additional resources regarding Houston ozone levels. Here are a few that I use regularly:

TCEQ Air Quality Forecast:  This has been a staple on my bookmarks bar for several years. It’s a good tool to help make weekend plans and avoid outdoor exposure when levels are predicted to be unsafe. However, this tool only breaks the information down into broad metropolitan regions and does not provide detailed, real-time data.

EPA Air Now: This tool is useful because it has real-time data on both ozone and particulate levels while also providing an overall Air Quality Index (AQI) forecast.

Purple Air: The Purple Air map shows a network of independent, personal air monitors for both indoor and outdoor environments. From my observation, they seem to be more sensitive to particulate matter than the public monitors in Houston. This sensitivity and rapid response is helpful, but the sensors only measure PM and not ozone.

When I’m not at a computer, I prefer to use apps for my phone. Two that I’ve found to work well are AirVisual and AirMatters. Both of these pull information from AirNow.gov and provide historic data and animations. AirMatters also includes pollen information for those who are allergic.

Lastly, I’ve also signed up to receive email alerts from Neighborhood Witness when there is an emissions event in Harris County. This service pulls data from the TCEQ emission database and alerts you when facilities have released large quantities of pollutants into the air. While it does not show ozone levels, this service allows residents to be cognizant of dangerous compounds that could have adverse health effects and points to some of the major sources of ozone precursors.

How would you rate your experiences with these resources? Are there some that you use which have not been mentioned here?