Bad air quality prompts health warning

Potential health hazards due to bad air quality

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Air quality officials are warning San Joaquin Valley residents of potential health hazards due to increasing ozone levels and smoke from lingering wildfires.

It's the second air quality alert the valley air pollution control district has issued this year.

Officials are advising residents to reduce extended exposure to outdoor air and strenuous activities.

However, some aren't going to change their routines because of the warning.

"The air quality does not change what I have to do; I have to ride my bike to and from work. It's not going to stop me from riding my bike because of the air quality," said Josh Trivett.

Exposure to particle pollution can cause serious health problems, aggravate lung disease, cause asthma attacks and acute bronchitis. The bad air quality can increase risk of respiratory infections.

Air Alerts are declared when conditions that lead to ozone formation – increased emissions, high temperatures and stagnant air flow – materialize in the Valley. High ozone levels are harmful to health and also put the Valley at risk for exceeding the 1-hour federal ozone standard, which can trigger an annual $29 million federal penalty. This penalty is paid by Valley drivers in the form of a $12 addition to their DMV registration fee plus increased fees on Valley businesses.

The air basin is on the threshold of attaining this 1-hour standard if no exceedances are recorded through the end of September.

“We are at an extremely critical point in our journey to meet this standard,” said Seyed Sadredin, the Air District’s executive director and air pollution control officer. “As we get nearer to the end of ozone season, it becomes even more important to avoid an exceedance.”

Episodes of late-summer high ozone are correlated to back-to-school traffic and increased vehicle idling, in particular.

Steps residents can take to reduce ozone levels include refraining from idling when dropping off/picking up students, carpooling, vanpooling and using alternate transportation, and refraining from using drive-through services.

Businesses and municipalities can reduce emissions by shifting operations to early morning or late evening, when ozone levels are lower, offering flexible work schedules, promoting carpools and vanpools for employees, and becoming a Healthy Air Living partner.

The present alert began Monday, Sept. 9 and will continue through Wed., Sept. 11. The Air Alert is effective in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and the Valley portion of Kern counties.

To receive notification of an Air Alert, please call 1-800 SMOG INFO (766-4463), visit the Air District’s website at www.valleyair.org, or subscribe to the free automated Air Alert email list at www.valleyair.org/list.list.htm.

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