CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A new report by the World Heath Organization said 99 percent of the population is breathing in unhealthy air. Some in the Coastal Bend have already been trying to figure out how to correct this.
The report states that in the 6,000 cities they measure air quality in, across 117 countries, they found unsafe levels of nitrogen dioxide and particle matter. Nitrogen dioxide comes from the exhaust on our transportation vehicles.
The WHO found that even low levels of these air pollutants can cause harm to your health.
“We’ve had several neighbors that have moved out of our community because of health affects," Jennifer Hilliard said. "Two of them based upon lung issues.”
Hilliard is co-founder of Ingelside on the Bay Coastal watch.
She said she has taken notice to the rapid industrialization over the last six years.
After reading the WHO reports, she came to a realization.
“Makes me look in my own community and realize we should probably be monitoring the air more in San Patricio County (…) as the industrial expansion continues in San Patricio County,” Hilliard said.
Elida Castillo with conservation group, Chispa TX, said she wasn't shocked to hear the report.
With all the refineries, she said people in the Coastal Bend might be worse off. She said no one knows exactly what is emitted from them.
“The refining and processing of fossil fuels does have a high impact on our communities," said Castillo, program coordinator for Chispa TX and a Taft resident. "And so, that pollution does affect our health, affect our water and affect our every day life.”
Hilliard said yes, refineries have done good things for local charities, but there's one thing they can't fix.
"They can pick up trash on the side of the road and they can help the schools with lunches and everything," she said. "But they really can't help you clean out your lungs."
Chispa has been directing their efforts to promote the use of more renewable resources, just as the WHO has been doing with this report.
For Hilliard and her organization, they want more air quality monitoring and to make that information public. The EPA does not have an air monitoring site in Corpus Christi.
"Unfortunately, in this state, refineries and industries are able to exceed emissions depending if they're having maintenance problems, or if they're in the startup stages and on different stages of their work," Castillo said.
"Recently, I received a grant for expanded air monitoring within our community," said Hilliard. "And so, as a grassroots organization, we’re doing what we can to understand what is in our air.”
Hilliard hopes to use more air monitoring as evidence to pressure state agencies for change.
According to the City of Corpus Christi, when you get those notices about hazardous air quality, all that information comes from forecasts by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
You can read the full report, here.