A report by the Environment Texas Research & Policy Center showed that “over 23 million people who make up the 20 main metropolitan and micropolitan urban areas in Texas” were exposed to at least five days of bad air quality in 2016. This degraded air quality increases the risk of adverse health effects for those exposed, such as asthma.
In 2016, there were 85 days of degraded air quality in Houston, exposing about 6.7 million people. Smog and particulate pollution were the primary pollution. Burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and diesel creates particulate pollution in the air. Elizabeth Ridlington, who coauthored the report from the Environment Texas Research & Policy Center, notes that “there’s no safe level of exposure to smog and particulate pollution.” Even low levels of exposure, as she states, can cause health problems.
The EPA and other regulatory agencies seemingly dismissing the importance of air quality regulations. The adverse health impacts of polluted air are becoming more of a concern as pollution goes practically unchecked. In Texas, for example, the affected areas have high vehicle use and polluting industrial plants just outside the cities. Forty eight percent of the smog-forming nitrogen oxide pollution in Texas come from cars and trucks. Twenty percent comes from oil and gas production and refining. Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas, thinks the EPA should reinstate and enforce emissions standards. In March of 2018, EPA rolled back emissions standards for light duty passenger vehicles. Without stringent standards, industry is not as likely to innovate and develop more efficient vehicles. This could potentially exacerbate poor air quality conditions, especially in cities with little public transportation and millions of cars, like Houston.