How does TX rate in air quality?

This is part of our blog series for Texas 2036’s Strategic Framework, which provides in-depth, cross-cutting data to inform key decisions about the most significant issues facing the state.

The quality of air and water, open spaces and the production of agriculture and energy impacts the lives of Texans. The sustainability of these resources is also critical. In Texas 2036’s recently released Strategic Framework, you can track the progress of our goals built around Natural Resources to ensure Texas is able to prosper through our bicentennial and beyond.  

Compared to other states, Texas has poorer air quality as defined by the presence of pollutants, with an average daily density of nine micrograms per cubic meter. 

The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program from the CDC’s National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network reports average daily density of fine particulate matter. Fine particulate matter is defined as particles of air pollutants with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, or PM2.5.

The negative consequences of ambient air pollution include decreased lung function, chronic bronchitis and asthma. Long-term exposure to such pollutants increases premature death risk among people aged 65 and older, even when exposure is at levels below the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. 

Particles can develop from forest fires or when gasses emitted from power plants, industrial operations and automobiles react in the air, for example.

Among 12 peer states, Texas ties with Ohio for 9th place in the 2022 data.

At the county level, the density of fine particulate matter changes year to year, as can be viewed in the Texas 2036 data lab. The latest available data are mapped by county below and indicate that the urban eastern and south parts of Texas experience higher densities of fine particulate matter as compared to the more rural northern and western sections.

Abundant natural resources have allowed Texas to prosper, but continued success depends on balancing economic growth with stewardship of air, water and land.