As Austin’s “ozone season” comes to an end, residents still need to keep an eye out for high-ozone activities.
A recent article by The Austin Community Impact Newspaper reported on Austin’s ozone levels and the effect they could have on the Austin community. the article explains that Austin’s “ozone season” takes place between August and October every year. Ozone season is brought on by an increased level of ground-level ozone, which the EPA states is not emitted directly into the air but is created by chemical reactions in the presence of sunlight. Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt stated that in the Austin-Round rock region, about 67% of emissions associated with ozone formation are caused by on-road and off-road vehicles. These vehicles’ activities, such as idling, increase air’s ozone levels and can lead to residential health problems. According to The Austin Community Impact Newspaper, “breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems, particularly for children, the elderly and people with lung diseases such as asthma. It can also have harmful effects on sensitive ecosystems.”
Although the season with the highest levels of ozone is coming to a close, officials still warn residents should still try to avoid ozone-inducing activities. The article explains that EPA’s air quality standards are based on ground ozone levels, and Austin’s recent increase in ozone levels may lead to it being “designated by the EPA as “non-attainment” for ozone.” If Austin is designated as “non-attainment” for ozone, this could “open up a host of additional requirements and have implications for 20 years or longer,” according to the article. It would also have lasting negative health and environmental effects on the community. There’s a financial cost, too. If Austin is designated as “non-attainment” for ozone, CAPCOG estimates this designation would cost Central Texas up to $1.4 billion a year and up to $41 billion in total until 2046.
Because of these risks, Austin and Round Rock residents need to be cautious of unnecessary ozone-inducing activities such as vehicle idling. By reducing these types of activities, residents can have a real impact on the region’s air quality.