TCU students can breathe easy even when the Air Quality Index rating is orange and highway signs warn drivers to limit outdoor activity.
Michael Slattery, director of the Institute for Environmental Studies, said the orange AQI rating means the pollution is unhealthy for those in unusually sensitive groups, such as children or older adults and those with lung disease or asthma.
Sam Adamie, an environmental specialist with Tarrant County Environmental Health, said the pollution level would not impact everyone the same way.
“Everybody will have their own particular reaction,” Adamie said.
Adamie said there are six different pollutants that can affect a region. Ground-level ozone, often called smog, is the problem pollutant in Tarrant County.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are the compounds that result in ozone formation. Both of these compounds can be found in motor vehicle emissions, Slattery said.
Ozone is formed when the sun basically cooks VOCs and NOx on a hot, windy day over an eight-hour period, Adamie said. In other words, the emissions from commuters who drive to work before 8 a.m. have mostly converted to ozone by 4 p.m.
Adamie said Tarrant County residents can access AQI information on the AIRNow website, which was created by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and other government organizations to provide the public with access to national air quality information.
When the ozone level reaches the orange AQI rating, the general public is not likely to be affected, but when the level reaches a red rating then everyone should limit outdoor activity, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) website.
The TCEQ website provides daily and hourly maps that chart the ozone levels in the region. Residents can also sign up for alerts concerning the air quality in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
There are ways university students can protect themselves from high pollution levels. Adamie said exercising outdoors earlier in the day to avoid breathing in freshly converted ozone and being aware of the daily pollution levels are good ways to be proactive.
“[You] can simply rearrange your schedule so that your activities, the heavy activities, are not taking place in sequence to the timing of those high air pollution events,” Adamie said.
Slattery said TCU students could drive less to and around campus to decrease ozone levels and take advantage of public transportation.
“Unfortunately there is not a lot [that students can do],” Slattery said.