Despite a 40 percent reduction in traffic, Houston, NPR reports, "did not breathe significantly cleaner air."

Traffic is down because of stay-home orders, but air pollution? Not so much

May 19th, 2020

Despite a 40 percent reduction in traffic, Houston, NPR reports, "did not breathe significantly cleaner air."

Looking at measurements of air pollution at 900 monitors across the country, NPR found that ozone pollution barely dropped during the stay-home orders to stop the spread of the coronavirus, "a clear indication that improving air quality will take much more than cleaning up tailpipes of passenger cars," they report.

Houston, home to the largest concentration of petrochemical facilities in the country and where industrial activity increased because of the pandemic, NPR reports, "did not breathe significantly cleaner air," with only an 11 percent reduction in ozone and 13 percent reduction in soot, sometimes called PM 2.5 or fine particulate matter — despite a 40 percent reduction in traffic.

Dr. Elena Craft, senior director for climate and health with Environmental Defense Fund, tells NPR that the pandemic could help the evolving science of air monitoring and measuring become more accurate, saying, "If you take all the cars off the road and it doesn't put a dent in your emissions inventory, then probably cars are not making up a lot of that."

Read the entire article here, which also looks at air pollution in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh ...

Take Action

  1. Demand the EPA strengthen standards for soot by June 29
  2. Find out how most Houstonians feel about the quality of local pollution control
  3. See where COVID-19 is hitting Houston hardest

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