EPA Grant Will Fund Air Pollution Tracking in Houston

The city wants to monitor air quality and measure cancer-causing emissions near two petrochemical plants, one of which announced plans for expansion last year.

1 minute read

July 17, 2023, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Black plume of smoke rising from petrochemical plant fire in Houston, Texas

Smoke rises from a fire at a petrochemical plant in Houston, Texas. | Veronika / Adobe Stock

A grant totaling close to half a million dollars from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will help the city of Houston monitor air pollutants including 1,3-butadiene in neighborhoods at high risk for poor air quality.

As Ysabella Kempe explains in Smart Cities Dive, “Exposure to this air pollutant, which smells like gasoline, can cause cancer and trigger short-term health impacts including eye and throat irritation, headaches and nausea.”

According to Loren Hopkins, the Houston Health Department’s chief environmental science officer, “This air monitoring effort was born out of concerns about ‘amazingly high concentrations’ of 1,3-butadiene the city detected near two adjacent chemical plants.” One of the plants, Texas Petrochemical, announced expansion plans in 2022 in spite of community concerns.

“Much of the grant funding will go toward the ‘very expensive’ equipment and sampling needed to monitor air quality, but the city also will use it to pay community partners helping with the project, Hopkins said.” The city also plans to monitor benzene, formaldehyde, and ethylene oxide.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023 in Smart Cities Dive

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