Posted by: greeningwashington | June 6, 2012

Learning to Listen to Me

When you are young you dream of what you will become. Anticipation blurs the here and now as you wait for that moment. You never arrive. For so much of my youth my dreams were not my own.

I may never arrive in time.

But beauty is not lost.

I realize that I will never become but will continue to live and listen.

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Posted by: greeningwashington | March 10, 2011

Terrorism, radicalism, and violence against women

This week the House Homeland Security Committee held hearings on the radicalization of Islam. The hearings are titled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.”

Beyond the overly euphemistic title and the skewed issues presented at the hearings, the notion that a Congressional subcommittee would politicize an essentially media-created issue at such a time is troubling. How many radical American Muslims have inflicted injury on other Americans? More violent attacks are perpetrated against Muslim Americans by non-Muslims than are reciprocated.

In my opinion, the mere threat of violence by radical members of a community does not warrant such hearings. If Congress was really concerned with terrorism they would hold hearings to address the daily terror and violence inflicted on millions of women and children. How about that for a radical idea?

Posted by: greeningwashington | January 25, 2011

Now I am Myself

I have just cracked open Anne Sexton’s collection of complete poems; I am ready. Like many brilliant and tragic women poets before her, Sexton lived in a world of depression and longing. She was criticized for her revealing poetry that touched on issues real and germane  to women of her time. I predict reading her collective works will change my life and allow me to forgive myself for being an emotional, compassionate and irrational woman. I am defined in my own terms, and my feelings are acceptable. I am acceptable. I am enough.

Her first poem You, Doctor Martin is about the Dr. that salvaged her mind from darkness while she was in an institution. A few lines from the poem:

I am queen of all my sins forgotten.

Am I still lost?

Once I was beautiful. Now I am myself,

counting this row and that row of moccasins

waiting on the silent shelf.

Posted by: greeningwashington | December 25, 2010

Merry [Insert Holiday Observed]! And Happy Running!

We are Running People. Humans evolved to run long distances in order to track  and literally run our prey to death. Our running destiny as been highly debated in the scientific community with some evolutionary biologists touting the virtues of walking. Neanderthals, a parallel species to the Homo sapiens, were stronger and smarter, the “Ice Age All-Stars” as Christopher McDougall terms them in his homage to the spirit of running, Born to Run.

If we were born to run, poses McDougall, why do so many people despise doing so? Scientists reason when it comes to exercise our minds and bodies come into conflict. Our minds are efficiency seeking machines reasoning that buying our lunch and working out for 30 minutes is much more efficient than running down a deer for dinner. However, our bodies were designed to be lean, running machines. Marathon times span from 2.5-5 hours at 26. 2 miles. McDougall reveals the story of a group of Bushpeople in Africa who engage in persistence hunts where they meticulously track individual Kudus pushing them from the pack until it collapses and dies of exhaustion. The average time it takes to exhaust an African Kudu? 3-5 hours. As McDougall says: Recreation has its reasons. [we don’t drop and die from exhaustion because we are programmed to cool our bodies using thousands of sweat glands unlike other large mammals that use their respiration systems for internal cooling].

Running has never been my forte. My feelings toward the 10 thousand-year old way-of-life were apathetic at best. My running consisted of a painful two miles, blaring my i-pod to drown out the silence, feeling neither satisfied nor miserable at completion.

McDougall’s book transformed my apathy into joy. I HAVE DISCOVERED THE JOY  OF RUNNING! Running is about more than maintaining weight or losing a few pounds; it is about being apart of a community. A community of Running People. Running is about fulfilling personal goals and pushing to the limit (the endless run) not for the status of becoming a marathon or ultra marathon runner or to land the cover of a flashy cereal box or magazine, but to find a connection with nature, with all of human-kind. And while most of human-kind passes on persistence hunts for grocery stores, our most basic fundamental uniting purpose continues to unite millions in recreation. This past week I have been running with my father, a marathon-distance runner who completed 34 miles in China last month, and his effortlessness and joy of running has taken hold of my spirit. I am certain I run more as McDougall did when he began training; however, my determination will not be quelled.

Another startling realization in Chapter 25! For 99.9 percent of our Running history we have used nothing but barefeet, but within the past 40 years researchers have determined padding, inflating, and insulating our feet from the ground as much as possible results in improved running form. Well since Nike put its fancy Cortez shoes on the market, the number of running related injuries have increased steadily. Some scientists have concluded that runners are 123 percent more likely to get injured than runners in cheap shoes [Bernard Marti, MD].  Why would more injuries result from inflated, bouncy, micro-chipped shoes rather than simple, thin running shoes? Well McDougall and others reason that certain shoes, often the most expensive, that insulate and contort the feet too much alter the running form so much so that injury results. Certainly the type of shoe is not the determinative factor for running injuries but if we survived so long with no shoes on our feet, it must count for something.

McDougall recounts an encounter between two Nike reps and the Stanford University track coach in 2001. In sum, the Nike reps were surprised to find the track team training barefoot upon their arrival. The head coach explained the team runs faster and suffer fewer injuries when training barefoot [I realize shoes prevent injuries from glass, etc. but in a perfect world!]. And Nike did what it does best: created the Nike Free, a thin shoe bolstered by ads containing dozens of images of sports performed without shoes and boasting the slogan “Run Barefoot”. Imagine that.

McDougall and top running coaches believe the fact that the Tarahumara and many Olympic runners spend time running in thin pieces of leather or no shoes at all must give credence to the idea that running barefoot should yield the same results as it did thousands of years ago [again remembering to account for broken bottles and other foreign objects we litter]. Some of McDougall’s conjectures are supported by hard science, others were formed after careful observation.

For a true barefoot running experience kick off the shoes and take to the streets, or try the Vibram Five Finger shoes, or anything similar! Happy running!

The book is far to detailed and filled with nuances to adequately summarize in full.  It was an inspiring read, and I recommend it to all beginning or prospective runners!

Until next time.

Posted by: greeningwashington | December 25, 2010

Hillary: Living Herstory

I have completed the first chapter in my law school journey: one semester down, five more to conquer. Chipping away at my legal studies for 15 plus hours a day left little time for anything (eating, sleeping, personal hygiene); engagement in the world at large took a back seat to the negligence formula and contracts. Attempts by the law school administration to keep the students informed amounted to the broadcast of CNN on a single tv located in the commons eating area. The placement of the tv in the eating area had little success in captivating an audience, as students managed to simultaneously hoover a six-inch sub while reading case law, tuning out everything else including CNN.

December 17 finally arrived, with much anticipation, and my peers and I released the tightly wound tension with shrieks of relief, high-fives, cardio and sweat, and some took to the college vices. Instead of joining others for a round of drinks, I picked up my father  from the airport after his 24-hour journey from the other side of the world, worked out on the tredmill, and joined my study group for a delicious sushi dinner complete with a shared bottle of cold saki.

Throwing myself headstrong into the study of law prevented me from diving into the pages of anything other than the 1000 plus pages of casebooks. I didn’t realize how much I craved the escape and knowledge of a recreational read until I blazed through three books in five days. I recently finished Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Living History, Chirstopher McDougall’s Born to Run, and Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s poignant but oft forgotten, hopeful but tragic, account of the sexual slavery, gender discrimination, and deplorable poverty millions of girls and women face on a day-to-day basis.

“Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.” Hillary Clinton: UN World Conference on Women 1996.

Hillary Rodham Clinton (Hillary Rodham as she preferred to be called until campaign advisers determined engaging in the misguided tradition of changing one’s name (one plus one = two not one, right?) after marriage was a preferable way to assuage wary voters. She ultimately made the choice to adopt Bill’s last name, as many wives do, because she loves Bill and because she realized that her independence stemmed from her actions not from her name.

Hillary is my hero. [As is her hero Eleanor Roosevelt].

Courageous, independent, and strong, she uses her position of power and influence to advocate for the unspoken issues facing millions of people around the world, specifically those facing women and girls in developing nations. Scholars, feminists, everyday people around the world recognize that women are the key to the  development and growth of impoverished nations (the correlation is clear given the fact that women and girls are disproportionately subjected to poverty, disease and famine). My understanding is that all human rights (education, food, economic independence, medical treatment, freedom from physical violence) must exist in conjunction to pull women out of the cycle of poverty thus translating into the development and growth of nations.

Hillary’s story is inspiring not for her impressive resume, which is quite impressive for a baby boomer female politician who grew up with few examples and strong societal reaction to females in any public role. She once called home during her first weeks at Wellesley, nervous and apprehensive, seeking words of encouragement from her parents. Her mother, with broken dreams of a college education, told Hillary she wasn’t a quitter. Her father told her to come home. Her story is inspiring because she took her middle-class privilege and used it for the betterment of society, fighting for children’s rights, universal health care, improved education, nuclear arms reduction, and more causes too great in number to list. Hillary stepped out of the quiet, unassuming role of First Lady and dared to tackle the issues. For instances, Bill appointed her chair of the commission on health care and she made numerous trips abroad meeting with top leaders while advocating for women’s rights. She was not always successful in managing reform, but her commitment to raising human rights, women’s rights, issues on the global stage was paramount to real change.

Reading history is unlike living it. Hillary has lived history; she has lived HERstory and has told the stories of women from every corner of the world. Her brave stand against a man and a well-funded, self-righteous Republican machine, who were committed to the Clinton’s destruction, shows that women can persevere in politics and are not destined to crack under unrelenting pressure (6 years of constant harassment and subpoenas took their toll on Hillary but did not break her spirit for what is right with America).

I recommend Living History for a candid, but sometimes guarded, insight into the life and mind of a brilliant, profound leader.

Until Next Time.

Posted by: greeningwashington | November 9, 2010

Hello Again

Hello out there.

I highly doubt I retained, let alone, acquired any followers. But, in order to provide self-assurance, I am posting this blog announcing I am back to blogging. This comes at perhaps one of the most stressful and uncertain times in my life — law school! Yes, I have decided to dive-into the study of the law. I figure it will get my closer, or further, from my goal of becoming an informed, feminist/empathetic lawyer. Or, something of the sort, anyway. I will be blogging less frequently, and I may try to merge this blog with my other blog located at:  http://kristinleveillesexualpolitics.blogspot.com.

In addition, I will broaden the scope of the blog to include commentary on politics in general, feminism, law school, and life. I will continue to post events and happenings in my community. In addition, I will create a reading list of my favorite books. Perhaps it will hold me accountable. We all want to be writers and bloggers but do we even read anymore?

until next time.

Posted by: greeningwashington | April 28, 2009

Houston: Ground-Level Ozone Part 3

FEASIBILITY

First, I recommend that the EPA tighten the NAAQS for ozone due to the significant health issues that I discussed. This would not only help alleviate the problem in Houston, but in other polluted cities throughout the nation. Pursuant to the CAA, the EPA must set the ozone standard at levels that protect the health of the public from the pollutant. The science seems conclusive that ozone pollution is damaging not only to human health but also to vegetation. Many studies on ozone levels and human health have shown that ozone levels, even under current standards, can lead to premature death and other serious respiratory conditions. In May of 2007, experts at the EPA even agreed that the ozone standard should have been lowered to 60 ppb instead of 75 ppb. In their letter to the then EPA administrator, Stephen Johnson, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), which is composed of a group of scientists and policy makers who provide independent advice to the EPA, unanimously recommended a range of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm for the primary ozone NAAQS. They stated that, “the primary 8-hr NAAQS needs to be substantially reduced to protect human health, particularly in sensitive subpopulations.”[i] If NAAQs were to be tightened to 60 ppb, human health would increase and we would see a reduction in health care expenses related to respiratory conditions. However, the costs would be substantial in not only implementation but also private-sector costs. While the benefits of human health and welfare seem to outweigh the economic costs, benefit-cost analysis like this sort is effectively precluded for setting standards under the CAA.[ii]

With the election of a new president and a majority of Democrats in Congress, many of whom support such tightening of standards, I project that my suggestion would be widely accepted among Democrats and even some Republicans from urban areas. Organizations like the American Lung Association would certainly be in favor of a move like this; however, the energy sector and the oil and gas industry would definitely be opposed to such a move. Tightening NAAQS for ozone levels would lead to an increase in industry expenses, however, some of these costs could be offset by federal funds. With proper implementation and enforcement, coupled with mandatory reduction of industrial and motor vehicle emissions, the Houston area would be able to meet a stricter NAAQS of 60 to 70 ppb.

Secondly, because motor vehicles and other on-road sources produce greenhouse gas emissions, which gases directly and indirectly contribute to harmful ozone build-up, I recommend that Congress pass legislation regulating greenhouse gas emissions, with the EPA acting as the enforcement agency. According to an EPA report, “climate change has the potential to produce significant increases in ground-level ozone in many regions, particularly for the highest-ozone events.”[iii]

Texas has many voluntary emission reduction programs such as the VMEP and TERP; however, these programs have not done enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, with the problem of population in the Houston area on the rise, transportation emissions will only continue to grow, according to the Houston SIP.[iv] Under the Obama administration, the EPA has already taken steps to begin regulating greenhouse gases from motor vehicle emissions with their CAA endangerment finding released two weeks ago.[v] The EPA’s endangerment finding clears the way for widespread federal regulation of greenhouse gases, including those from motor vehicles.

The obvious advantages to passing federal legislation regulating vehicle emissions are a real reduction of NOx in the air, which would result in lower levels of ground-level ozone, among other things. On the other hand, placing such widespread federal regulations on vehicle emissions will be difficult to implement and very hard to monitor. Many opposed to the ruling say that it will just produce a regulatory mess, with no way of reducing vehicle emissions. Another concern is the cost of legislation. For example, automobile makers may complain about the cost of new technologies and the cost that the consumer would incur. However, if national legislation were passed regarding greenhouse gas emissions, automakers should be able to successfully streamline their production, and would not have differing standards in different states. The federal government could also subsidize the automakers or the consumer until the cost of new technologies has been significantly reduced. Despite setbacks, if states were able to adequately enforce a reduction of greenhouse gases, ozone levels would be reduced.

Finally, due to the complexity of regulating on-road sources of NOx and VOC, a final recommendation I propose is for new initiatives and funding for the enforcement side of the Houston SIP. Control regulations already in place must be strictly enforced. For instance, monitoring of point sources, which contribute to 35 percent of ozone precursors, must be carefully regulated. This means more inspection teams and better monitoring equipment. If standards are not being met due to negligence or willful incompliance by industries, human health will continue to be endangered. The best way to make sure that current standards are met is to heavily enforce standards. I would hope that industry would not be opposed to enforcing the current law; however, I am certain some power plants and refineries are opposed. The people of Houston only stand to gain from enforcing the ozone NAAQS.


CONCLUSION

Ozone pollution in the Houston area is a serious problem that affects human health and welfare. Studies have shown that children and the elderly are endangered by increased levels of pollution on warm, sunny days. Also affected, are outdoor enthusiasts like my own father. While the federal government, through Congress and the EPA, has set NAAQS that address the problem of ozone pollution, the standards need to be tightened further. Houston has continuously ranked among the top 10 cities for ozone pollution and has been listed as a severe nonattainment area as of October 2008.[vi] In order to ameliorate the problem of ozone, the EPA should tighten the NAAQS, greenhouse gas emissions should be capped and regulated by state and national governments, and the Houston SIP should provide for tougher and stricter enforcement practices. If all of these actions were taken, ozone levels in the Houston area, and around the country, would decrease.

Until next time.


[i] Henderson, Dr. Rogene. “Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee’s (CASAC) Peer Review of the Agency’s 2nd Draft Ozone Staff Paper.”

[ii] Vig, Norman, and Michael Kraft. Environmental Policy, page 196.

[iii] Environmental Protection Agency. “Ground Level Ozone.”

[iv] Texas. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Adopted HGB 1997 Eight-

Hour Ozone SIP Narrative: Chapter 4: Control Strategies And Required Elements.

[v] Motavalli, Jim. “E.P.A. Takes On Tailpipe Emissions.”

[vi] EPA. “Clean Air Act Reclassification of the Houston/Galveston/Brazoria Ozone

Nonattainment Area; Texas; Final Rule.”

Posted by: greeningwashington | April 28, 2009

Houston: Ground-Level Ozone Part 2

PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE

In order to assess what steps can be taken to prevent or reduce the problem of ozone, it is important to first analyze the current policies in place. Currently, the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) is the legal foundation for national air pollution programs. Under the CAA, each state is required to produce a State Implementation Plan (SIP), which sets control strategies and other measures to ensure that cities meet the NAAQS. Currently, the national standard, for ground-level ozone is .075 ppm (75ppb), which means cities cannot exceed this level of ozone.[i] According to the TECQ, each state SIP must set control strategies and devise ways to deal with nonattainment areas. In broad terms, each state is responsible for industrial and area source controls, vehicle maintenance and inspection, and voluntary emission reduction programs at local levels. Within each state, there are local and regional plans, which address specific local problems. The most important part of the Texas SIP and the Houston, Galveston, Brazoria SIP are the control strategies. TECQ provides information on the Houston, Galveston, Brazoria area SIP. Currently, this region is classified as severe nonattainment area under the 1997 eight-hour ozone standard, 80 ppb, with a maximum attainment date of June 15, 2019.

What controls are in place currently? According to the Houston, Galveston, Brazoria Ozone SIP, this area includes “one of the most comprehensively controlled industrial complexes in the world.”[ii] In order to control NOx and VOC emissions, precursors to ozone, the Houston SIP monitors five sources of pollution: point sources, which contribute to 35 percent of ozone pollution; on-road sources (34 percent) such as motor vehicles; and ships, area, and non-road (each 10 percent).

Regarding point source pollution, the Houston SIP provides for a cap and trade program for utility boilers, gas turbines, heaters and furnaces, etc. On-road control measures include both federal and state controls. State plans include: (i) the Texas Emission Reduction Plan (TERP), which provides funds for heavy-duty diesel engine replacement and retrofitting, (ii) vehicle inspection and maintenance, (iii) speed limit reduction, and (iv) voluntary mobile source emission reduction program (VMEP). Other control measures include emission standards on stationary diesel engines, and monitoring, testing, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements for VOC storage tanks, transport vessels, and marine vessels.[iii]

In order to help alleviate the ozone problem in Houston, I recommend three policy solutions: (i) tighten the NAAQS for ozone to between 60-70 ppb, (ii) pass national legislation dealing with a reduction of motor vehicle and industrial emissions including greenhouse gas emissions, and (iii) implement more efficient enforcement techniques.


[i] Environmental Protection Agency. “Ground Level Ozone.”

[ii]Texas. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Adopted HGB 1997 Eight-

Hour Ozone SIP Narrative: Chapter 4: Control Strategies And Required Elements.

[iii] Texas. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Adopted HGB 1997 Eight-

Hour Ozone SIP Narrative: Chapter 4: Control Strategies And Required Elements.

Posted by: greeningwashington | April 28, 2009

Houston: Ground-Level Ozone Part One

Ozone Haze in Houston

Ozone Haze in Houston

In an attempt to provide my reader’s with more in-depth analysis I will provide, in a three part series, my research on the problem of Ground-Level Ozone in Houston, Texas.

PROBLEM

Ever since 1999, Houston, Texas has competed with large cities like Los Angeles, California for the title of the most polluted air in the United States, as measured by the number of days each city is in violation of federal air quality standards.[i] While air quality is certainly not the only environmental problem affecting Houstonians, it is arguably one of the more widespread and endangering problems. According to a 2004 study done by the American Lung Association, Houston was ranked fifth in the nation as a metropolitan area with the worst ozone air pollution.[ii] Due to the widespread ozone pollution problem in the Houston area, the specific air quality problem I will focus on is ground-level ozone pollution.

In analyzing this problem, it is important to first define ozone and then distinguish between “good” ozone and “bad” ozone, like the kind affecting the Houston area. Ozone is a gas that occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere, or the stratosphere, and in the lower atmosphere at ‘ground-level’, or the troposphere. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ground-level ozone is the primary constituent of smog.[iii] On the other hand, “good” ozone occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere and forms a thin layer that protects Earth from the sun’s rays.[iv]

How is ground-level ozone, or ozone[1], formed? What causes it to become a harmful pollutant? According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), ozone is not emitted directly into the air; instead, it is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC).[v] Motor vehicle exhaust, industrial plants, including power plants, chemical solvents, and other sources emit the oxides (NOx) and organic compounds (VOC) essential to ozone creation. To complete the equation, weather and climate factors such as, intense sunlight, warmer temperatures, constant high-pressure systems, and low wind speeds are necessary for the accumulation of large quantities of ozone. Weather conditions such as these are certainly plentiful in Houston during the hot, summer months. Simply put, the equation for ‘bad’ ozone is as follows: pollutants from power plants, cars and trucks, refineries, chemical plants, and other sources create ground-level ozone when they chemically react in the sunlight.

The extent of the ozone problem in the immediate city of Houston, which includes Fort Bend County, Harris County, and Montgomery County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, affects approximately 2.2 million people.[vi] However, some ozone models use the ‘Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown Metropolitan Statistical Area’, which includes Austin County, Brazoria County, Chambers County, Fort Bend County, Galveston County, Harris County, Liberty County, Montgomery County, San Jacinto County, and Waller County, according to the Office of Budget and Management’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Components Bulletin dated, November 2007.[vii] This area includes nearly 4.5 million people. Other models, however, use the ‘Houston, Galveston, Brazoria Area’, which includes Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, and Waller counties. I will distinguish between the immediate Houston area, and other areas when discussing scientific data models.

Next, who is most affected by ozone pollution? Children, the elderly, those in urban areas, and those that spend a significant amount of time outside are most affected by ozone pollution. According to a study by the American Lung Association, “27.1 million children age 13 and under, and over 1.9 million children with asthma are potentially exposed to unhealthful levels of ozone.”[viii] Additionally, the American Lung Association reported that minority children are more likely to live in areas with high ozone levels. According to their numbers: 61.3% of black children, 69.2% of Hispanic children, and 67.7% of Asian-American children live in areas that exceed the 80 ppb ozone standard. Only 50.8% of white children live in areas with levels higher than federal standards (since this study, the air standards for ozone has been changed to 75 ppb). Although ozone pollution affects children and those who spend more time outdoors in greater proportions, no one is completely free from ozone exposure.[ix]

Why should Houstonians care about the build-up of ozone? There are several reasons related to both health and environmental quality. First, exposure to elevated amounts of ozone can cause a variety of health problems including coughing, throat irritation, congestion, wheezing, inflammation, and it can worsen asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory related diseases. [x] It can also “reduce lung function and inflame the linings of the lung” and even permanently scar lung tissue. [xi]

For my father, who is an avid outdoor runner and has run 600 miles since October, air quality in Houston, especially ozone levels, is of great concern to him. “It (ozone levels) certainly can be a huge problem for people who don’t have the best health and are outdoors often,” he told me in a phone conversation. “In order to avoid higher ozone levels, I run mostly in the mornings when there are lower levels, and I run longer distances in the winter when the weather is cooler,” he said. “You can definitely tell in the summer that the air feels less refreshing,” he added. “It’s something I want to see taken care of overtime.”[xii]

Ground-level ozone also affects public welfare. That is, crops, vegetation, plants, forest growth, and crop yields. According to the EPA, ozone can make certain plants more susceptible to certain diseases and insects.

How severe is the problem of ozone in Houston? Prior to answering this question, it is important to explain some key terms that the EPA and state agencies use when describing ozone levels. In order to measure air quality standards, the EPA came up with the Air Quality Index (AQI), which measures air quality from 0 (being the lowest) to 500. Therefore, the higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and ultimately the greater the health risk.[xiii] Air quality between 0 and 50 is considered good; fifty-one through 101 is moderate; one hundred and one through 151 is unhealthy for sensitive groups; and 151 and beyond is very unhealthy.

According to the ‘High Ozone Average’ table provided by TCEQ, in 2008, the immediate Houston area had 38 days in which the eight-hour ozone (O3) average exceeded the federal standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) with an average of 106 ppb, which is considered unhealthy for the eight-hour averages. This number was higher than any other city in Texas. For the one-hour averages, Houston had six days, which registered 127 ppb, which is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Using the same chart for 2007, Houston had 46 days in which the eight-hour ozone (O3) average was 112 ppb and nine days the one-hour average was 166, which is considered unhealthy.[xiv] Judging from the table, the highest levels of ozone pollution were worse in 2007 than in 2008. According to the TCEQ, ozone formation is typically highest between May and October.

How serious is the problem of ozone pollution in Houston and around the country? Serious enough for the EPA to set national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone and other air pollutants. The potential risk to the health of children and people with asthma and other lung diseases is serious and can lead to complications and even death. According to a recent nationwide study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, the estimated relative risk of death from respiratory causes that were associated with an increment in ozone concentration of 10 ppb was 1.040 (95% confidence interval, 1.010 to 1.067), which is statistically significant. The researchers also found that there exists a significant increase in the risk of death from respiratory causes associated with an increase in ozone concentration.[xv] The study, which followed almost 450,000 people for 20 years in over 96 U.S. metropolitan regions, found that people living in areas with the highest concentrations of ozone, such as Houston, had a 25 to 30 percent greater annual risk of dying from respiratory related diseases compared with people from regions with much lower levels of ozone. The study also found that there is a 4 percent increase in risk of death from respiratory causes, such as pneumonia, for every 10 ppb increase in ozone level. [xvi] The fact that ozone pollution has been linked to premature death, shortness of breath, inflammation of the lungs, and increased risk of asthma attacks speaks to the seriousness and severity of this problem not only in Houston but nationwide.


[1] For the purpose of this paper, unless stated otherwise, all references to ‘ozone’ refer to ground-level ozone.


[i] Wilson, James. “Getting the Big Picture on Houston’s Air Pollution.”

[ii] American Lung Association. “State of the Air: 2004.”

[iii] Environmental Protection Agency. “Ground Level Ozone: Basic Information.”

[iv] Environmental Protection Agency. “Ground Level Ozone.”

[v] Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. “Rapid Economic and Population

Growth Create a Potent Blend for the Region’s Environment.”

[vi] U.S. Census Bureau. “State and County Quick Facts: Houston, Texas.”

[vii] U.S. Census Bureau. “State and County Quick Facts: Houston, Texas.”

[viii] American Lung Association. “Children and Ozone Air Pollution Fact Sheet.”

[ix] American Lung Association. “Children and Ozone Air Pollution Fact Sheet.”

[x] Environmental Protection Agency. “Ground Level Ozone.”

[xi] American Lung Association. “Children and Ozone Air Pollution Fact Sheet.”

[xii]Leveille, Greg. Interview.

[xiii] AIRNow. “Air Quality Index (AQI) – A Guide to Air Quality and Your Health.”

[xiv] Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. “High Ozone in Your Metro

Area.”

[xv] Jerrett, Michael Dr., Dr. Richard T. Burnett, et al. “Long-Term Ozone Exposure

and Mortality.”

[xvi] Yang, Sarah. “Nationwide Study Finds Long-Term Ozone Exposure Linked To

Higher Risk Of Death.”

Posted by: greeningwashington | April 28, 2009

Taking the Lead

(c) NYT

(c) NYT

America is exceptional. America is self-righteous. Our rhetoric reflects the narrative of American exceptionalism, but often our actions don’t align with our self-assuring stories.

It is true, for generations, America has led the world in technological innovations, military spending, and international aid but we have fallen short when it comes to leading on climate change policies. Only within the past few years has China surpassed the United States in the amount of CO2 emissions it spews into the atmosphere.

It is time that that America take the lead in formulating climate policy solutions.

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, yesterday announced that the United States is prepared to lead the world in new global warming treaty. It’s about time. The Republican controlled Congress under Clinton refused to ratify the Kyoto Treaty and again under Bush.


As Obama and his administration prepares for climate talks in Copenhagen in December, they must continue to assert their leadership through rhetoric and real actions.


Until next time.

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