Elevated levels of ammonia and methane are being recorded near a number of major U.S. cities, as the country continues to face severe drought conditions and the worst air pollution outbreak in its history.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released the data Friday as the agency continued to track the health of the nation’s air quality and the impact of the ongoing wildfires on public health.
Agency officials noted that elevated ammonia levels in some parts of the country, especially in parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado, are indicative of continued air pollution in those areas.
“This data reflects the continued use of hazardous air pollutants by industry, and the widespread use of toxic chemicals and air pollutants that are no longer being controlled by government or other actors,” NOAA administrator Craig Fugate said in a statement.”EPA has not seen these elevated concentrations of ammonia or methane in any place on the West Coast since January,” he said.
The data shows an elevated level of ammonia in areas along the Texas border and in some locations on the New Mexico-Arizona border.
In Colorado, ammonia readings have risen to levels that are at or above the EPA’s daily threshold, Fugate noted.
The increase in elevated levels was not a surprise, NOAA officials said, but they warned people not to use any ammonia or other chemicals until they are tested for health effects.
The increased levels of elevated ammonia, methane and other contaminants are also consistent with the fact that air pollution is being driven by human activity, Fugates said.
“The trend is a result of continued burning of fossil fuels and the burning of oil and natural gas,” Fugate added.
The EPA is continuing to monitor air quality in major cities as the worst drought in more than 50 years continues to spread across much of the West.
The federal government is warning people not not to drink from the tap water for a third straight day and to avoid driving on the roads due to the effects of the drought.
The air quality of the Texas Gulf Coast is still under extreme restrictions.
The air quality advisories in the Texas Panhandle, which covers much of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, are still in effect, the agency said Friday.