What’s In Houston’s Air?


Toulene, Benzene, o-Xylene. Do these sound healthy to breathe? Do you know how much of them in Houston?


Thanks to Air Alliance Houston & Sketch City, you can find out what and when chemicals in your air in almost real time. The most common of which are:


what's in Houston's Air - Air Quality Info by New Living

They are gases released in sometimes high levels from chemical plants and refineries. Areas of Houston that are at great risk of exposure are places like Galena Park, Texas City and Channel View.

To tell you a little more about these gases:

Benzene is a light hydrocarbon and a natural component of crude oil. It’s a known human carcinogen with short- and long-term health effects. It is created from cars, trucks, trains, marine vessels, oil refineries, or chemical plants. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Effects Screening Level states that health standards should be less than:

Short term (1 hour): 58 parts per billion (ppb).

Long term (1 year): 1.4 ppb.

Take a look at a very normal release of Benzene from Galena Park in April 2017.

And there are even more chemicals that are being released in high amounts on a regular basis near the Houston area. Here are a few of the most common as well as the toxic effects.


Ethylbenzene is a highly flammable hydrocarbon. 99% of the ethylbenzene produced is used to make styrene, which is in turn used to produce plastics. Ethylbenzene is also used as a solvent and in the production of asphalt, naptha, and fuels. It is created by cars and chemical plants that produce styrene. It’s also used indoors in cleaning products, varnishes, paint, and other commonly used household items.

It’s short term effects include throat irritation and dizziness. High exposure can cause nervous system toxicity, pulmonary effects, and effects on the liver and kidneys.


Toluene is a man-made hydrocarbon derived from benzene. Toluene is the primary odor component in gasoline. It is used in chemical manufacturing and as a solvent. It is produced by cars and emitted by facilities that use it as a feedstock or solvent. These include petrochemical plants, manufacturers of paint and ink, and printers. You can also find them commonly in your home in paints, nail polish and cigarette smoke.

Long term or chronic high level exposure can cause depression of the central nervous system, including drowsiness, ataxia, tremors, cerebral atrophy, nystagmus (involuntary eye movements), and impaired speech, hearing, and vision; in addition to cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). Most importantly it can impact the development of a fetus in a pregnant woman.


o-Xylene, along with m- and p-xylene, is one of three isomers of xylene. Xylenes are used in the production of ethylbenzene, as solvents in paints and coatings, and as a gasoline additive.The chemical is emitted by cars, industrial sources, and volatilization of solvents. It’s also found indoors in synthetic fragrances and paints.

The long term side effects to chronic exposure can range from effects on the Central nervous such as headache, dizziness, fatigue, tremors, and lack of coordination; as well as effects on the respiratory, cardiovascular, and kidney. The carcinogenicity is unknown.

Take a look at another tweet by the Air Alliance’s Kuukibot and notice the level of ppb of these chemicals being released. On April 1st, Kuukibot released 12 different data points about toxicity level in the Houston air. On March 31st, there were 23 tweets released with different data points.

air quality houston info by new living

So what can you do?

Education is always a great first step. Take a look at Air Alliance Houston, a group that puts together data for air quality Houston. They offer free workshops, info online, and a twitter bot that auto tweets all important air quality information in Houston.

Join us in store at New Living for lots of different ways you can improve the health of your home including water purifiers, air purifiers, and healthy mattresses.

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