HARC’s Dr. Ebrahim Eslami Talks to Texas Tribune about Air Quality Monitoring

HARC in the News


HARC’s Air Quality Research Scientist, Dr. Ebrahim Eslami, was recently interviewed for an article on air quality monitoring in Houston which was co-published by the Texas Tribune, Environmental Health News, and palabra.

Published in English and Spanish, the article, Neglected and exposed: Toxic air lingers in a Texas Latino community, revealing failures in state’s air monitoring system, discusses how public data from a network of state air monitors around the Houston Ship Channel is hard to interpret and is often inadequate, leaving Latino-majority neighborhoods like Cloverleaf unaware of whether the air they breathe is safe.

Dr. Eslami was one of several experts, residents, and community advocates interviewed and quoted for the article, helping reporters to understand the various types of emissions and how air quality is modelled and monitored. He explained how the air quality monitoring data in Texas can be difficult to interpret and how local governments and environmental organizations are working to improve the gaps in air monitoring:

“Not even my wife, who has been exposed to several years of nerdy air quality talk during the last 10-11 years, knows how to read the quality data,” Ebrahim Eslami, a research scientist specializing in air quality at Houston Advanced Research Center, an independent research hub, said as he pointed to a number on TCEQ’s website. “The average person doesn’t know. There is no indication if 11 is bad or good or I don’t know.”

Eslami has compared Texas’ site to neighboring Louisiana’s, which tells users whether a pollutant is measuring at higher or lower levels than federal health limits on the same page as their air quality readings.

The article focuses on Cloverleaf, where 79.4% of the 24,100 residents are Hispanic. The neighborhood is one of a string of communities that sits in the shadow of the 52-mile-long Houston Ship Channel, one of the world’s largest petrochemical complexes where more than 200 facilities process fossil fuels into plastics, fertilizers, and pesticides.

Many residents in these communities suffer from respiratory problems, asthma, and skin ailments, and wonder if the air they are breathing is the culprit. Yet, information about what they are breathing is hard to find, despite the presence of 23 state air monitoring sites near the Houston Ship Channel. When the information is available, it is difficult to understand, only published in English, and most residents are unaware that this information exists. The article makes the case that more needs to be done to fill the gaps in air monitoring data, including providing air quality information to residents in a way that they can understand so they are better informed and can make better decisions to protect their health.

To read the full article, click here.

To learn more about Dr. Eslami, click here.

For more information about HARC’s Air Quality Research, click here.

“Not even my wife, who has been exposed to several years of nerdy air quality talk during the last 10-11 years, knows how to read the quality data.”

Dr. Ebrahim Eslami