Kayakers on Buffalo Bayou near downtown HoustonHouston has worked for many years to reduce air pollution and meets five of the six federal health-based standards for common air pollutants.  However, historically, ozone has been one of the most difficult pollutants to reduce to safe levels.

Why is this so?  Ozone is a complex pollutant, and Houston faces several unique challenges. First, ozone is formed when chemical building blocks known as volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides react in sunlight.  Weather plays an important role–when these chemical building blocks react on hot, sunny days with low winds, ozone levels can build up rapidly.  If you live in Houston, you know that this kind of weather is common on summer days. Houston has also been challenged in its efforts to reduce ozone because we are home to the largest concentration of petrochemical and refining facilities in the nation.

Early on, scientists and regulators did not fully understand the role that emissions from industry and other sources were playing in forming ozone.  More importantly, it took years of research and development to design technologies to reduce those emissions. Fortunately, industry now uses many processes and technologies to Fortunately, industry now uses many processes and technologies to reduce their emissions, which are dramatically lower now than they were even ten years ago. reduce their emissions, which are dramatically lower now than they were even ten years ago.

Finally, our city has grown dramatically over the past 50 years.  According to 2011 census estimates, we now have over 6 million residents in our region, and we are among the fastest growing regions in the nation. This rapid growth means more homes are being constructed and powered, more cars are on our roads, and more consumer products are being used.  Fortunately, we have developed cleaner gasoline and diesel, cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars, and cleaner construction and related equipment.

Cleaner industry, cars and trucks, energy efficiency and pollution reducing lifestyle choices by Houstonians are working together to make a real difference in the quality of the air we breathe.

Cleaner industry, cars and trucks, energy efficiency and pollution reducing lifestyle choices by Houstonians are working together to make a real difference in the quality of the air we breathe.

Want to learn more about the history of air pollution regulation in Houston and around the nation?  Click below to find a timeline of important milestones.