Ragweed and Ozone Causing Air Problems in Houston

If you've been having respiratory problems, it's not just your imagination. Houston is having a particularly bad air day today. Residents are contending with a double whammy of ozone and ragweed pollen.

Among all the urban areas in Texas, Houston alone had an ozone warning today.

The Houston Clean Air Network has an online map, and it shows high levels everywhere, with peaks in Pearland and along the Ship Channel.

Ozone forms when the right weather patterns mix together the right ingredients from other pollutants.

Matt Tejada is with Air Alliance Houston.

"We load up our atmosphere with all the pollution from the cars and the refineries and everything else in the Houston area, and then it just sits there and cooks in some really nice weather."

Contrary to what many people think, it's not necessarily the blazing hot days of deep summer when this occurs most often, at least around here.  

"And unfortunately for the Houston region, we will usually have those sorts of weather conditions on really nice days in late spring and early fall. Where we have some dry air, we have some bright sunshine, light breeze, those are perfect for ozone formation."

On top of that, it's also ragweed season.

Dr. David Corry conducts research on allergies at Baylor College of Medicine, and also treats patients at the VA hospital.

"It's more of a problem nowadays compared to earlier generations."

Ragweed pollen spreads far and wide, and is a huge allergic trigger for humans.

Plus, it seems the ragweed plant has flourished in recent decades.

"It's hard to be sure but it's just that we've so altered our environment particularly in rural settings with farming and agriculture and in other things that disrupt the environment, that leads to the massive overgrowth particularly of this weed."

On the other hand, recent decades have also brought medical relief too.

There are now non-drowsy forms of antihistamines, and nasal steroids like Flonase.

Bio photo of Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...