Community Air Monitoring Network

Greater Houston is home to over 500 facilities listed in the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). In 2020, more toxic pollution was released in the Houston Metropolitan area than by the top five U.S. Metropolitan economies combined. Lax land-use policies and sprawling residential development have resulted in industrial and transportation-related air pollution sources being located near many Houston communities.
Sources: Bureau of Economic Analysis EPA Toxic Release Inventory Program

At the same time, the current monitoring network has been designed to determine compliance with federal air quality standards and is often inadequate for identifying localized sources of air pollution which could put public health at risk. Significant gaps in the public air monitoring network mean many Houstonians don’t know what’s in the air they are breathing.

Harris County VOC monitoring locations (purple crosses) and PM 2.5 (red crosses) with TRI facility locations (dots). The polygons encapsulate the nearest monitor for the area within – this illustrates the lack of monitoring coverage in many high-risk areas.

What We're Doing

A community-based air monitoring network

To inform county air monitoring, we have built our own community-based air monitoring network. We currently have air monitors in Pasadena and Galena Park/Jacinto City and three of Houston’s ‘Complete Communities’: Kashmere Gardens, Gulfton, and Near Northside/Northline, with plans for more.

This low-cost network is being designed to address neighborhood-level air quality concerns in communities with the greatest risks. It comprises a mix of air monitors in strategic locations, including Purple Air particulate matter monitors and APIS air monitors that detect common pollutants.

This additional air monitoring capacity is helping us identify and raise awareness about air pollution sources in neighborhoods most impacted by poor air quality. Equally importantly, it guides community action planning around issues of concern.

Check out our air monitoring dashboards to view our current Community Air Monitoring Network and monitor air quality in your community.

Community partners make it possible to maintain our network:

  • Baker Ripley Promise School
  • Galena Park Multiservices
  • Jacinto City Hall
  • Launch Point CC
  • Natural Health Care Massage
  • St. Peter’s Epsicopal Church
  • Westward Square Apartments

Air Quality Ambassadors

Our Air Quality Ambassadors program gives residents the chance to learn about the technical aspects of air quality including map reading, types of air pollution, and the air monitors, while using their community connections to grow the network and spread information. Ambassadors receive stipends for attending and completing the training.

Current Ambassadors:

  • Jean Vega – Galena Park
  • Carolyn Smith – Kashmere Gardens
  • Sandra Edwards – Kashmere Gardens

Frequently Asked Questions

The air monitors measure 4 distinct pollutants: Nitrogen Oxides (which include nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide), Ozone, Volatile Organic Compounds, and Particulate Matter.

  • Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) are primarily released from vehicular exhaust and burning fossil fuels. Breathing NOx can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, causing coughing, shortness of breath, tiredness, and nausea.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are highly reactive carbon compounds – such as benzene, formaldehyde, ethylene – released by vehicles, industries, and various other chemicals. Breathing VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, causing headaches, difficulty breathing and nausea, and can damage the central nervous system, liver, kidneys, and other organs. Some VOCs can cause cancer.
  • Ozone (O3) forms from reactions between NOx and VOCs released by industries, refineries and vehicles, in the presence of heat and sunlight. Breathing ozone can cause chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. It can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. Ozone also can reduce lung function and inflame the lining of the lungs.
  • Particulate Matter (PM2.5) is a mixture of various particles such as dust, dirt, soot, smoke, or even smaller emitted by industries, vehicles, construction sites, fires, or unpaved roads. Breathing PM2.5 can cause short-term health effects such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. Exposure to fine particles can also affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease.
In addition, the monitors also record wind direction, speed, humidity, temperature, and other meteorological readings.

We use a mix of strategically placed air monitors: APIS, PurpleAir, and we’re in trials with QuantAQ.

Current C.A.M.P. communities include: Gulfton, Kashmere Gardens, Near Northside, Galena Park/Jacinto City, and Pasadena.

We’re expanding the network to Baytown, Channelview, and Northeast Houston.

At the beginning of the program, there was an open call for communities to apply to be a part of our C.A.M.P. network. We then considered a variety of pollution sources (TRI facilities, concrete batch plant sites, etc.) and a committee decided on the communities to prioritize for the program.

Want to host a monitor, become an Air Quality Ambassador or have questions about C.A.M.P.? Get involved.

Presentations, data summaries, and action plans

We hold meetings with community members and partners to share results from our air monitoring network and then use this information to work together on community action plans for clean air. Our data presentations and community action plans are below: