Thursday, April 30, 2009

Austin Air Quality is Mixed in Review

An old parable says that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will leap out right away to escape the danger. Kind of like A-Roid all of a sudden having surgery after the steroid mess came out. However, if you put that same frog into a pot of cool water and then you gradually increase the temperature until it starts boiling, the frog will not become aware of the threat until it is too late. Much more like how the roid situation with Clemens went down. Maybe because he kept saying the pot wasn't hot enough, denying any use.

I thought since A-Roid wasn't scheduled to come back from his rehab until May 15 we'd be treated to full days of roid-less sports coverage but that's been blown out. Thank God that ESPN spent very little time on the piece this morning and decided instead to focus on two of today's brighter players.

So back to the cooked frog. The Austin Business Journal reported yesterday on the American Lung Association's report on Austin's air quality. Long story short, Austin gets a mixed rating. Air quality in general is based on small particle pollution and another reading for ozone pollution. Austin is good on the 2.5 micron pollution but bad on the ozone. I have mixed feelings on this report as it may encourage more people to venture out, eventually becoming cooked frogs later in life.

Here's what I base this on. If you venture out first thing in the morning say around 5:00 am or 6:00, but not later than 6:45 (that's when people in my neighborhood start leaving for work) you will notice cleaner air. The reason being that overnight the pollution from the day before has been swept out of town for the most part. Wind and pressure play a part here but let's say for argument it is swept out on most days. If you are jogging and pass an early commuter in their car you will notice the exhaust from that one car. It's sufficient to make you not want to inhale until you get far enough away. So one car passing while your in a clean air environment is very noticeable.

Now go down to the hike and bike trail along Lady Bird Lake underneath the Mopac Expressway bridge where there's heavy traffic and run down Cesar Chavez street where there's heavy traffic at say 5:30 pm. Unless there's a car with flagrant expulsion of exhaust it'll be difficult to notice the exhaust. Why is this? If you look at the pollution charts that provide real time readings from monitoring equipment you'll see the levels are higher than they were at 5:30 am. If you can smell the poisonous exhaust from one car, common sense says 10,000 cars are doing some damage. And mix the sun's rays, which creates ozone, and is also said to create a sunburn effect to the lung's inner lining it's a wonder anyone jogs at all.

Needless to say I'm sticking to the early morning runs unless there's a weather event that sweeps the bad air out of the atmosphere. Recent rain storms did this. I'm also staying away from heavy-traffic-streets. I'd rather run in the afternoon or evening but it's just not worth it in the long run.

Read more about dirty air in the Canada Medical Association report.

If you want to watch the Texas statewide levels rise over a period of a day, point your browser to the TCEQ ozone level map and the TCEQ PM 2.5 level map,

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