, Research Paper
Analysis of Austin s Air Quality
When taking an analysis of a certain area s air quality, many different factors are taken into account. The more factors, the more accurate the analysis will be. Air quality can be measured in more than one way. The Ozone Forecast and the measure of Airborne Particulates are two factors that are considered when toxicologists analyze the air quality. The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) has engaged in extensive research concerning the air quality of the entire state of Texas. They are in charge of making sure the air quality statewide is acceptible and is not a hazard for the citizens of Texas.
Currently eight communities are participating in the Ozone Forecast Program. The amount of ozone in the atmosphere measured in parts per billion (ppb). All eight sites across the state have an average ppb of less than 36 in the past 2 weeks which is good. Austin has had a ppb of 30 in the past 2 weeks. which is by far the lowest of the eight sites. Each of the eight sites each have a special program that occurs on days during which the ppb passes a certain level. In Austin, this program is called Ozone Action Day. Ozone Action Day is enacted when the average ppb passes 85 for an eight-hour span. 85 ppb may seem like a lot until you take into account that cities like Houston and El Paso regularly hit the 85 ppb mark during the summer and they only take action when the ppb hits 125. Austin s level for Ozone Action Day is also among the lowest in the state. This further shows that the air quality of Austin is good and very healthy. In recent years, Austin has had an average of about 15 to 18 days per year when High Ozone Concentrations were measured. This level is much lower than Houston s average of over 50 days per year. Of course Houston is notorious for their smog level and dirty air. During the past two years, Austin has had an average of 5 Ozone Action Days a year compared to Houston s 31 and Tyler s 11. Although this figure is higher than San Antonio s 3.5 and Corpus Christi s 1 it is still considered good. In 1996, Austin didn t have a single Ozone Action Day. The increase can directly be linked to Austin s growth rate that has been slowly rising this past decade.
Another scale used by TNRCC to determine the how bad the air pollution is in a certain metropolitan area is the Air Quality Index (AQI) which is probably the most used. This index is found in the weather section of the local paper and is based on a scale of 0 to over 300. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided a scale called the Air Quality Index (AQI) for rating air quality. This used to be known as the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI). The scale is based on the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The scale is quite simple and is easy to read. An AQI of 0-50 means the air quality is good. 51-100 means the air quality is moderate and therefore is still acceptable. 101-150 means the air is unhealthy for certain sensitive groups of people. 151-200 means the air is unhealthy to everyone. 201-300 is very unhealthy. Anything over 300 is considered hazardous. The AQI for Austin rarely passes 50 except during Ozone Action Days mostly occuring in the summer. For March, the average AQI for Austin was 22 which is very good.
Smoke, dust, and soot are airborne particulates that are inhaled every time we breath. These particulates are classified by their size. Larger or “coarse” particles range in size from 2.5 to 10 micrometers in size, while “fine” particles are smaller than 2.5 micrometers in size. All of these are far too small to be seen with the naked eye. The TNRCC measures both fine and coarse particulates across the state. PM-2.5 data is the near real-time measurement of particulate matter 2.5 microns or less in size from the surrounding air. Fine particulates (PM 2.5) are generally emitted from activities such as industrial and residential combustion and from vehicle exhaust. Fine particles are also formed in the atmosphere when gases such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds, emitted by combustion activities, are transformed by chemical reactions in the air. Large scale agricultural burns can produce huge volumes of fine particles. Austin s PM-2.5 data is also relatively low. It rivals San Antonio s. When analyzing this data we can conclude that the amount of particles floating around in Austin s atmosphere is at a minimum level when compared to other places across the state.
In conclusion, based on all the factors listed above, it can be concluded that Austin s Air Quality is good. Its citizens breathe clean air and are not likely to contract some sort of illness related to bad air. Even though the air quality has slipped over the past few years due to the city s rapid growth, the quality is still very much acceptable.