El Paso ranks 4th worst in air quality for mid-sized cities

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The Sun City ranks among the top, mid-sized metros in the country with the worst air quality, according to a recent study.

The report from BuyAutoInsurance.com collected 2018 data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Out of 15 mid-sized metros, El Paso is ranked 4th. The Texas border town also ranks 19th out of more than 300 cities in the country with poor air quality. Bakersfield, Calif., ranked worst, while Boise, Idaho, had the best air quality.

Among small metros, Las Cruces, N.M., ranks 4th on a list topped by Hilo, Hawaii, with the worst air quality and Evansville, Ind., at 15 with the best.

When it comes to large metro areas, the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario area of Southern California has the worst air quality.

The analysis shows El Paso has an overall Air Quality Index, or AQI, of 55. The AQI measure helps the EPA helps define what local air quality means to your health.

To put that into perspective, an AQI from 51 to 100 is considered moderate. Anything above is consdered unhealthy for the public. The AQI has a maximum measure of 164.

For Joseph Jordan, it wasn’t much of a surprise to learn El Paso ranks as one of the most polluted cities in the country. “I’ve lived in El Paso pretty much my whole life and you know everything is kind of like a haze,” he said. “You could pretty much see the smog whenever we’re driving over I-10 near the school, you could see it. You really never think anything of it until you get out of the car and you could actually physically smell it.”

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said El Paso typically sees emissions from mobile sources but also mentions that the proximity to other large metro areas must be taken into account. El Paso is located right next to Juarez, Mexico, a city of more than 1 million people.

In a statement to KTSM, a TCEQ spokesperson said, “Based on the latest (2017) emissions inventory estimates, 71% of Nitrogen Oxides (NOX) comes from mobile sources and 61% of Volatile Organic Compounds come from area sources.”

Those mobile sources include cars, trucks, and trains. Some area sources include residential, commercial, and small industrial sites.

Others who are relatively new to El Paso said they don’t notice the issue, especially when comparing to other cities.

“I haven’t noticed too much difference. As for me, I don’t really have a problem with it. I guess I’m more accustomed to it because I’ve lived in it for so long,” said Austin Kelly, a UTEP student.

TCEQ officials said El Pasoans can help limit air pollution by carpooling, refueling vehicles in the late afternoon and evening, and to not top off the gas tank.

Meanwhile, Jordan relies on other alternatives, “I think the city is trying to make strides to get better about it. You got the trolleys now, they’ve got the super long Sun Metro buses so they’re trying to reduce the pollution in the air but there’s definitely more work to be done.”

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