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Tuesday, October 26, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 46

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Staff Editorial
 

EDITORIAL BOARD

John Harp                                 Ed De La Garza 
Jason Caesar Consolacion     Jim Parsons 
 

Welcome to (cough, cough) Houston

Houston. The Bayou City. Space City. Clutch City. Smog City?

Get used to that last one. It may be the most appropriate nickname for our town in light of the fact that Houston is officially the smog capital of the United States, having beaten out longtime rival Los Angeles for that honor earlier this month.

According to the Houston Chronicle, "ground-zero" for the smog outbreak was a Deer Park sports complex. The pollution level recorded there Oct. 7 was not only the highest in the Houston area in a decade, but was the highest in the nation this year and double the maximum allowed by the national health standard.

Not only did the reading give Houston a dubious card for local bragging rights, but it raised a number of questions about why the city does not notify residents when pollution levels are high.

The smog monitoring stations measure the amount of ground-level ozone present. Ozone, a respiratory irritant linked to lung damage, forms when pollutants from a variety of sources -- industry, automobiles and others -- react in sunlight.

Though everyone is affected by high pollution levels, officials say children, elderly people and those with existing respiratory problems are most susceptible.

The Chronicle reported that the pollution levels recorded in Deer Park on Oct. 7 would have caused a "Stage 1 smog alert" in Los Angeles, meaning an advisory is faxed to schools and all citizens are advised to avoid vigorous outdoor activity. But in Houston, no such warnings exist.

But why? Isn't the government environmentally sensitive enough to notify its citizens when conditions outside are less than healthy? At the very least, doesn't it care?

The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission is already testing a program in Dallas that would issue a "High Ozone Health Notice" if the ozone level exceeds a certain point, and pollution watches from the city of Houston and local industry will also be coordinated.

Of course, warnings and notices aren't enough. We need to work on actually reducing pollution now that everyone's been tipped off to the fact that we have a problem.

After all, the market for "Houston: Where Every Day is a Smog Alert Day" T-shirts probably isn't too hot.
 

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