A Summer Phenomenon

For 26 days in 2011, every place in Texas showed higher concentrations of lung-damaging ozone than allowed by federal air-quality standards, especially in Dallas. The federal standard set in 2008 is 75 parts per billion. The spike in ozone which is particularly a summer phenomenon is exacerbated by trucks carrying drilling materials that emit nitrogen oxides, and natural gas escaping from pipelines or storage tanks that emit volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Known ozone “precursors” such as nitrogen oxides and VOCs can react with each other to form ozone when aided by sunlight. The most difficult environmental issue North Central Texas face today is air quality. Dallas Forth Worth (DFW) region meets the standard for five of six criteria air pollutants defined by the EPA. The six pollutants are carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxides, ozone, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide. The only air pollutant for which DFW do not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standard is the ozone. In hot summers, combination of nitrogen dioxides and VOCs and concentrations of traffic and industry, Dallas is an ideal incubator for the creation of ground-level ozone.


Under the Clean Air Act, ozone pollution has long been regulated because of its tremendous hazards to the public. Under the Clean Air Act, ozone poses tremendous hazards to the public health and the environment. High ozone levels lead to respiratory distress and disorders; decreased lung function; increases in the emergency room visits and sick days. To address the serious problem of ozone, the Clean Air Act provides a multi-step process for ensuring that all areas of the country achieve acceptable ozone levels. EPA establish nationwide air quality standards for ozone (called National Ambient Air Quality Standards), which are required to be strong enough to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. The next step, EPA designate areas of the country that meet the standards, and those who do not. The last step, requiring states to submit plans for achieving and maintaining compliance with EPA’s ozone standards — with especially strict requirements for areas that currently do not meet the standards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updated its ozone air quality standards in March 2008. The EPA towards the end of 2012 promised the DFW residents for stronger protections against the harmful public health and environmental impacts of ground-level ozone. The agency announced on January 7, 2012 about its determination that Wise County, Texas contributes to high ozone levels in nearby Dallas-Fort Worth. This action required polluters in Wise County  to do their fair share to reduce ozone levels in Dallas-Fort Worth. Wise County was included in the DFW ozone designation due in large part to the emissions of nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds from a recent boom in oil and gas production in the area. According to the Technical Support Document (TSD), the final area designations in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area for the 2008 ozone national ambient air quality standards are based on several factors and indicators. The population density and degree of urbanization were analyzed. TSD stated: EPA evaluated the population and vehicle use characteristics and trends of the area as indicators of the probable location and magnitude of non-point source emissions. These include ozone precursor emissions from on-road and off-road vehicles and engines, consumer products, residential fuel combustion, and consumer services. Areas of dense population or commercial development are an indicator of area source and mobile source NO2 and VOC emissions that may contribute to ozone formation that contributes to nonattainment in the area. Rapid growth in population or vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in a county on the urban perimeter signifies increasing integration with the core urban area and indicates that it may be appropriate to include such perimeter area(s) as part of the nonattainment area.


It is very important to recognize the effect of ozone to a population, especially adults and children who are already had chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma. Exposure may compromise the ability of the body to fight respiratory infections. Bell et al. (2004) a multisite time-series study of 95 large US urban communities throughout a 14-year period  found that widespread pollutant such as ozone adversely affects public health.


Area Designations for the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air … (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/airquality/ozonepollution/designations/2008standards/documents/R6_DFW_TSD_Final.pdf

Bell, M., McDermott, A., Zeger, S., Samet, J. & Dominici, F. (2004). Ozone and Short-term Mortality in 95 US Urban Communities, 1987-2000. JAMA;292(19):2372-2378. doi:10.1001/jama.292.19.2372.

Dallas Fort-Worth Breathes Easier Following EPA’s Decision … (n.d.). Retrieved from http://blogs.edf.org/energyexchange/2013/01/16/dallas-fort-worth-breathes-easier-following-epas-decision-on-wise-county-ozone-petitions/

Green Dallas…building a greener city! (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.greendallas.net/air_quality.html

Labilles, U. (2013). Obstacles of Disease Surveillance Interoperability: A Challenge to Public Health. (Unpublished,  PUBH-8115-1/HUMN-8115-1-Soc Behave Cultural Fact in Public Health. 2013 Spring Qtr. WK7Disc) Walden University, Minneapolis.





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