In the past few years, Houston has appeared on the list of top 10 most polluted cities in the country, according to the American Lung Association “State of the Air” report. Given the size of the state and its fluctuating air quality, it is important that Texans stay informed about the role they can play in keeping Texas air clean.
The theme for this year’s Air Quality Awareness Week is “Healthy Air – Important for Everyone,” highlighting the adverse effects of air pollution, especially when a respiratory disease is running rampant.
Why is healthy air important?
Long-term and short-term exposure to pollutants can cause serious health problems. Breathing in air pollutants can cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, asthma episodes, and/or chest pain. Exposure to air pollution puts you at risk for lung cancer, heart attacks, stroke, and in extreme cases, premature death.
There are many causes of air pollution, both natural and man-made. Natural disasters, like wildfires, produce smoke pollution that can have a severe impact on public health. The smoke pollution from natural disasters like the Bastrop fires of 2011, for example, accounts for a significant percentage of emergency visits, premature deaths, and hospitalizations.
In Texas, more than a million adults and over 600,000 children deal with asthma symptoms. Higher air pollution is more likely to cause asthma attacks and a need for medication. Though there is no cure for asthma, those who suffer from it can improve their symptoms by educating themselves on air pollution and making changes to better the air they breathe.
Children, older adults, and those with heart or lung diseases can review this resource on how to manage their conditions in the event of smoke pollution.
What can you do to become more “air aware”?
Educate yourself on the “Air Quality Index” (AQI) and check air pollution levels in your community.
You can get emergency alerts and health warnings, check the AirNow website to monitor your state’s air quality index, and stock up on essentials and nonperishables to minimize indoor air pollution.
Lone Star Legal Aid’s Environmental Justice team has given a presentation (below) on the basics of air pollution permits in Texas and what you can do to help protect air quality near you.
Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org
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