Recycling in Houston Is a Problem - Essay Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1879 Words
Date:  2021-05-25

Opinions from experts suggest that air pollution levels in Houston city are becoming unacceptable. They further claim that this trend has started causing health problems related to the impacts for the residents. These high levels of pollution are being fueled by various sources like normal operations from businesses, tailpipe releases from vehicles but the most notable Pollutant in the city is caused by dangerous pollutants that are emitted by the numerous chemical manufacturing plants(more than 400), among them being two out of the four biggest refineries in the country. It is clear that the recycling in Houston has led to an ozone pollution problem and it has for years, exceeded the specified federal limits for the ozone, causing a problem in the air quality of the city.

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More than forty years following the Clean Air Act passage, new sources of air pollution are rare although as the economy continues to evolve, some other sources appear to take shape. The materials industry has not been left behind in this economic evolution, and what used to be a sideline or secondary industry, recycling has now become a major component of manufacturing. As global material prices rise, more and more items are being recycled like televisions, car batteries and cars among other things. Houston, Texas is Americas largest chemical hub, meaning that approximately a quarter of the nations petrochemical substances are found in Texas. Many people who have been to Houston recently, describe an unattractive haze over the city. With such high levels of petrochemical plants, there has been a rise in the citys economy. However, these plants positive impacts on the economy seem to be taking place at the expense of the citys air quality. Houston citys 311help line is flooded with calls from concerned residents even at odd hours of the night or very early in the morning, reporting incidents such as explosions, yellow or red smoke, children having difficulties breathing, and fires among other things. These events are caused by different recycling activities undertaken in the plants such as cutting of metal using torches, improper draining of vehicle gas tanks, feeding propane tanks into the crushers and many others. These kinds of reports have become more prevalent in the past five years, leading to the air authorities in Houston to try and find the main problem. According to documents and interviews acquired from Houston Chronicle, they have discovered that the main air pollutant that was formerly unrecognized and hazardous is mostly from car crushers and metal recyclers.

Ozone is and has been a problem for Houston's air quality. Regional climate circumstances together with the range of emissions from transportation and plants in the area have contributed a lot in making Houston the perfect medium for the formation of ground level ozone. Houston has long been aware of the implications of its industries particularly back in 1999, when the city was ranked as having the highest levels of ozone in the country, surpassing Los Angeles by far. This served as a wake-up call and the fact that the city started to conduct impact studies in order to create and implement some environmental reforms indeed proves that there is a problem. According to Kim-Yoon, (1985) The Ozone is formed when the vehicles and industrial plants air pollutants react to sunlight. Breathing in such ozone air has been proved to be harmful, and those people that are more predisposed to these effects are individuals who have conditions such as heart diseases such as cardiac arrests and asthma. A report from a task force formed by the Citys mayor in collaboration with the health institute,(2006) reveals that another health implication resulting from ozone and one which seems to be on the rise especially for neighborhoods that surround the chemical plants is child leukemia. Dr. Arch Carson, a scientist, based in Houston, in the Health Science Center Department at the University of Texas has been conducting a lot of research for years, as regards air pollutions impacts on the health of individuals. His on-going study at the University confirms that as the ozone in Houston continues to peak, more and more people are getting sick. Data from the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, (2006) reveals that there are numerous new studies that directly link ozone to problems of health, a sentiment echoed by other experts. An independent group of leading specialists that is tasked with the responsibility of advising the agency has also chipped in; concluding that reduction of ozone and improvement of the quality of air will lead to extensive health benefits among them, reducing the by and large number of deaths related to the ozone.

According to a report by EPA, (2006) the city has been unable to meet the federal standards for ozone and air quality. Subsequently, Houston seems to have traded their quality of air for productivity. It is also evident that the stakeholders themselves are aware of the health implications being fuelled by their recycling plants through air pollution. This is because they have been trying to fight back, through an attempt to reduce pollution that comes from the natural gas facilities. As Arturo Blanco, the chief of Houstons Bureau of Pollution Control and Prevention explains, that after numerous complaints and protests from residents of some neighborhoods like Manchester, Magnolia Park and Washington Avenue regarding cracking of peoples walls, shattering noises, a lot of smoke and fires in some cases, the city conducted further investigations. Subsequent testing in the surrounding areas of five of Houstons metal recycling industries revealed hazardous amounts of hexavalent chromium. This chemical which is a carcinogenic metal is also referred to as Chrome VI, and it is a high priority according to air experts. Once it has been inhaled, hexavalent chromium goes to the lungs and has the ability to penetrate through cells hence causing free radicals. These radicals in turn damage ones DNA and in due course, cause lung cancer. This makes it among the most intoxicating and potent carcinogens identified so far. The research further showed that Chrome was present in the air in the areas surrounding all the five industries under investigation by the Bureau of Pollution Control and Prevention. These plants included; Allied Alloys, Cronimet, Holmes Road, Rose Metal Processing and Spectrum Metal Recycling. Don Richner, an analytical chemist attached to the Bureau of Pollution Control and Prevention explains that when it comes to metal, the process of welding or cutting it means that the metal is being vaporized and all the missing particles become vapor released into the air, naturally, this makes metal emissions quite dangerous because people living around such emissions were at a higher risk of developing cancer.

The situation in Houston as regards the air quality has been further worsened by fracking. The major environmental gain that can be ascribed to fracking is an increase in natural gas production which in turn can be replaced with coal in generation of electrical power. The process can be achieved with almost half the emissions of carbon dioxide during combustion. Fracking is a process in which rocks are fractured through pressurized liquid in order to release natural gas. This technique has become quite popular in America. With the fracking industry currently booming, Houston anticipates to see massive growth of its petrochemical department. This essentially translates to the city further struggling to meet the federal standards minimum requirement for the quality of air which would mean regression for the citys progress for the past decade. Recent research implies that shale gas which is fund in fracking sites leaks methane. Consequently, the methane wipes out all climate advantages that would have been obtained from using the natural gas from fracking in favor of coal. Taking a look at different views; fracking seems to be an environmental disaster as opposed to what most people think regarding its limited benefits. It impacts both water and air quality. Malla et al, (2004) it is evident that human and animal lives near fracking sites are significantly affected as regards their health. Fracking has become very popular and as a result has increased Americas natural gas and oil production. This may be good for business but has adverse effects to the climate because currently, the society ought to be working on reducing consumption of such fuels so that catastrophic climate can be avoided. Houston is possibly among the most striking illustrations of the persistent air pollution problems being experienced in America.

Cumulative health threats from collective effects of synchronized exposure to various air pollutants are particularly more disheartening to certain susceptible populations.(Cook et al,1973) Socioeconomically deprived groups, for instance, seem to be on the receiving end of this poor air quality in the city. This is because most of these people are the ones likely to reside just outside or very close to some of these industrial plants where there are more elevated levels of pollution compared to other places. They also live in dilapidated houses that lack air conditioning and lack proper diet .Moreover, the same group of people is more likely to be found working in the many industrials plants in the city, within hazardous conditions, making them more predisposed to air pollution impacts. (Kim-Yoon, 1985)This raises a serious question of the stakeholders have not been taking the right steps to address this problem, is it because it mostly affects the poor and defenseless? Resources should be addressed to preventing or limiting the exposure to the residents. The recycling industry in Houston should address the health concerns reported by the residents and look for ways to reduce emissions that have adversely affected the quality of air in the city. All the research that has been carried out should be used as a compass to try and determine the right directions that will lead to the development of strategies to address this persistent air pollution problem in Houston.

Annotated Bibliography

U.S. EPA. (2006a). 1999 National-scale air toxics assessment: 1999 data tables. Texas state summary database. ASPEN. Retrieved 02, 2006, from This study was conducted initially in 1999 but more information was later added, and an update of the same was done in 2006.

2) The Environmental Protection Agency which is the body tasked with protection of the environment and human health through formulating regulations based on the law.

3) The EPA conducted a study in Texas, particularly Houston as regards the various reports about hazardous emissions and made recommendations on reduction of ozone. The study contains figures of the impacts from the recycling industry in Houston.

Malla, Ramesh B, and Arup Maji. Engineering, Construction, and Operations in Challenging Environments: Proceedings of Ninth Biennial Conference of the Aerospace Division, March 7-10, 2004, League City/houston, Texas, Usa. Reston, Va: American Society of Civil Engineers, 2004. Internet resource.

This is a document that is a result of a biennial conference organized by Aerospace Division of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2004.

The authors of the document are a combination of multiple government agencies that were present at the conference and the civil engineering aerospace stakeholders.

The document contains information from the various stakeholders that were concerned with the levels of emissions caused by the recycling industry in Houston and other cities. The information suggests that there is cause for alarm due to the high levels of emissions.

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